July 2001

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Strategy Session Tackles Pressing APEGGA Issues


Advocacy is intrinsic to the varied work APEGGA already does and can't be placed elsewhere. New certification categories are not necessary right now -- there are other ways to address specialization. But professional practices need to be redefined.

These are among the key findings of APEGGA Council and its executive committee, after a strategy planning session in Jasper in May. New and mid-term councillors had the chance to get to know one another, meet staff, learn more about their association, and jump right into a handful of the major issues before them.

Three questions awaited workshops of councillors, executive committee members and staff:
* Can APEGGA appropriately fulfill a dual role of protecting the public while acting to promote the welfare and status of professional members?

* Should APEGGA institute qualifications that are additional to basic P.Eng., P.Geol. and P.Geoph.?

* What needs to change in the APEGGA practice definitions to address issues of compliance?

Advocacy Doesn't Mean Union

The advocacy workshop, led by Past President Sue Evison, P.Eng., found that the real purpose for APEGGA is public protection and the well-being of the professions as a whole. Although APEGGA offers a wide range of member services, its role is generally not the welfare of professionals as individuals.

APEGGA should not negotiate salaries, for example, or perform other duties associated with unions. But the advocacy APEGGA is involved in -- such as lobbying for better legislation to protect the public and striving to make it easier for APEGGA professionals to work in other jurisdictions -- does not conflict with its self-regulatory and disciplinary roles.

Neither should APEGGA follow the lead of Ontario, by creating a separate advocacy organization, Ms Evison's group recommended. Noel Cleland, P.Eng., spoke strongly against the experience so far in Ontario, where engineers are now represented by two groups. The voluntary advocacy body has the support of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, yet the two often do overlapping work.

There doesn't appear to be a strong call for a union-style advocacy association in Alberta. Still, APEGGA needs to make sure members know what the association's role is and how APEGGA works for them. Coun. Nima Dorjee, P.Eng., spoke of a "disconnect" with the membership, which needs to be addressed. Many members don't know what they get for their annual fees, he said.

The workshop group said council may want to form a task force to watch what happens in advocacy in other jurisdictions and come up with a direction for APEGGA. Getting the message out must play a major role, but so must listening: participants said that APEGGA needs to find out what stakeholders consider "value" in the association, and whether there needs to be an increased APEGGA effort.

APEGGA may need to conduct a statistically valid survey to answer that question, participants heard.

More Qualifications?

So far, new professional titles are not the way to deal with specialization and certification, a group led by Coun. Bill Roggensack, P.Eng., PhD, found. The key remains that professionals do their work within the disciplines they are qualified for, through training, experience and education.

And APEGGA needs to take a proactive, heads-up approach, the strategy session heard, by anticipating what future demands will be. For example, water quality and intensive livestock are hot topics right now.

Disciplines within the professions often have overlapping boundaries, the group reported. Members said a call for specialization is usually from an outside "driver" -- such as public concern, government concern and, in a recent situation involving petroleum reserve evaluations, even the Alberta Securities Commission.

APEGGA needs to react quickly to issues of competency and ethical conduct. The association should develop and implement improved education of the public and the professions on qualifications and competency, the value of the professions, and other areas.
Mr. Roggensack's group also called for more enforcement and discipline, particularly in recognized problem areas.

Dated Definition
The current practice definitions have served the professions and APEGGA well -- but they're dated, said a group on definition and scope led by Coun. Ron Triffo, P.Eng. Provincial legislation is clear that APEGGA has the power to increase registration, saying professionals must register. "We've got all the teeth in the world," said Mr. Triffo.
Who should be registered? It's simple, the group said. "If you are eligible to registered -- you are in. If you are not eligible -- not registered."

Although Council policy calls for 100 per cent compliance, in reality 85 to 90 per cent of eligible engineers and only 60 per cent of emerging technology engineers are registered. The numbers are similar in the geosciences. Something needs to be done to improve the numbers, the workshop group said.

The group called for a redefinition of scope of practice, refined practice definitions, a revised Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act to include the change in definition., and an outline of compliance policy.


As Simple As All This (CUTLINE HEAD)

Coun. Bill Roggensack, P.Eng., PhD, turned to the overhead to help strategy session participants picture the issues of specialization and certification.



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