July 2001

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APEGGA Volunteer Enjoys the Challenges of his Job
David Chalcroft, P.Eng., Speaks About APEGGA's Obligations, Engineering's Contributions and the World of Consulting

Public Affairs Officer

Dave Chalcroft, P.Eng., points to a print of the Old Man Dam in Southern Alberta that hangs in his Calgary office. He's discussing the many projects he's been involved with over 37 years with UMA Engineering.

Well-traveled, widely experienced, and full of ideas and opinions about his particular branch of engineering, Mr. Chalcroft, 58, enthuses about the excitement and change that one becomes involved in as a consultant.

"There is a lot of variety in the consulting business. You are faced with new challenges regularly," he explains. "Plus you have the business aspect. If you like the business aspect, consulting gives you the opportunity to really get in control of how you are working, and the kinds of projects you can accomplish."

Mr. Chalcroft is the current chair of the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada. He has been involved since 1993 through Consulting Engineers of Alberta, which he has served as a director and president in 1994/1995; from there, he participated on the national board, first as a member of the board of directors. Then he was recruited as chair.

Consultants and Society

He enjoys his involvement with organizations that teach the public about the consulting engineering profession, and believes that they are key to creating the infrastructure of society, while generating $6 billion in business a year.

"We like to think we are the engines of the economy -- engineers say that in general, and consulting engineers in particular say that." For Mr. Chalcroft, his work with APEGGA and ACEC flows directly from that philosophy.

"I think we're doing good things for the industry," Mr. Chalcroft explains." We've honed our focus down to several key mandates" .

This focus includes working through the ACEC to improve remuneration for consulting engineers, which lags behind "in-house" engineers by as much as 13 per cent.

"Most of our clients are engineers in corporations, and they don't understand why charge rates from consulting firms are higher than they're salaries in their offices. They don't see the extra overhead costs that consultants have."

Student Outreach

As a complementary part of raising the public's awareness about consulting engineers, the ACEC is developing a student outreach program aimed at coaching high school students and educators about curriculum and university program requirements for engineering, with a focus on the consultant.

ACEC also monitors business practices. The association works with groups such as construction and architects associations, to create standard contract documents that will prevent disputes, saving time and money.

Observing and discussing emerging trends is another such function. This takes on a dissemination role for members through luncheons, workshops, and seminars.

When Disaster Strikes
Perhaps the most interesting public work that Mr. Chalcroft has become involved with is a new venture called REDR -- Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief. REDR, an agency formed several years ago in Britain under the patronage of Princess Anne, recruits, trains and sends engineers of all disciplines to assist in disaster relief, both man-made and natural, in Canada and internationally. ACEC is the initiator of the Canadian arm of this organization in partnership with CCPE and the Engineering Institute of Canada.

Another pet project is lobbying the federal government to commit greater funding our Canadian highways. Quite simply, they're underfunded, especially compared to the U.S., which makes our trucking and transportation systems less competitive, and our roads more dangerous for the average driver.

The Honour of Licensure

The road to all this began for Mr. Chalcroft when he finished his engineering degree in 1964 at the University of Manitoba. Joining his professional association was both a given and a privilege.

"I was registered from the start, but my feeling was that it was not a burden, but an honour! Why wouldn't I want to join?"

Though a long-standing member, Mr. Chalcroft did not become active in the Association until 1990, when he was recruited to the Practice Review Board, serving for three years and becoming chair in the third year.

"It's a good arm of APEGGA because it has a lot of autonomy. You can launch an investigation or take on an issue that you felt was important to the organization without relying on direction from above. It was both fun and challenging."

It was also a challenge to help APEGGA review its disciplinary and investigative processes, and improve its methods of self-regulation. Working on this committee fostered strong beliefs about the importance of self-regulation for the professions, and a system that emphasizes accountability.

A Most Public Obligation

"I believe that all practicing bodies, government, companies, everyone, shares the same public obligation. It is our obligation and role to safeguard the public," says Mr. Chalcroft, now a member of the Acts, Regulations and By-Laws Committee.
Much has changed in the profession since Mr. Chalcroft joined UMA in 1964, but through it all, Mr. Chalcroft feels it has been a very rewarding time, partially because of that consultant's enthusiasm for directing his or her own business destiny.

"Employee ownership has been key at UMA. You get very involved in the business side - and it keeps you involved because you contribute to your own bottom line, whether good and bad."



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