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An Interview With Elaine Honsberger, P.Geoph. , Chair of APEGGA's Geoscience Task Force
By Nordahl Flakstad
For the last two years, a Geoscience Task Force struck by APEGGA Council has sought ways to make geologists and geophysicists feel they are more a part of the Association. The current Task Force Chair, Elaine Honsberger, P.Geoph., recently shared some thoughts on what has been accomplished and on what remains to be done.
Toward that end, Ms. Honsberger, and others who also have served on the task force during the past two-years -- Neil O'Donnell, P.Eng., P.Geol., Alice Payne, P.Geol., Brenda Wright P.Geol., Gordon Williams, P.Geol., PhD, and John Boyd, P.Geoph., along with staff representatives Al Schuld, P.Eng., and Marie Locke -- have devoted considerable time and energy. In reporting to the June APEGGA Council meeting, the task force recommended its own demise and that implementation of its recommendations proceed via a permanent mechanism -- possibly a standing committee. (Council tabled the recommendations for further consideration at its September meeting.)
Ms. Honsberger, a senior geophysicist with Alberta Energy Company, noted some geoscientists have questioned their place within APEGGA, 86 per cent of whose professional members are engineers. Furthermore, some geologists and geophysicists don't like having to register with APEGGA to practice their professions. While it was known that not all geoscientists practicing in Alberta belonged to APEGGA, the numbers had never been well quantified.
Based on the sample size of the survey and the method of data acquisition,
KPMG felt these numbers are highly correlatable to the population of all
geoscientists practicing in Alberta. This implies that 41 per cent of
Alberta's geoscience practitioners are not members of APEGGA.
Middle Age "Bulge"
The breakdown of membership relative to age showed the demographics of
the non-member and member groups were essentially the same as the overall
demographic breakdown of the entire population. In other words, 50 per
cent of non-members are in the 40-50 year category.
Armed with this quantitative data, the task force sought some qualitative and anecdotal information about how geoscientists relate to APEGGA. Gathering venues for such information included "brown bag" lunches to which geoscientists were invited, as well as sessions with some Permit holders to seek their input.
According to Ms. Honsberger, the sessions not only provided feedback on feelings, pro and con, for joining APEGGA. Comments also showed the degree of support for APEGGA and for professional registration -- among members and non-members -- varied widely. Geoscientists registered with APEGGA included those who not only support licensing but who demonstrate that by devoting time to the Association. The membership also contains reluctant registrants who do so merely to satisfy a legal requirement.
Interestingly, not all non-members reject the value of registration. As one might expect, non-registrants also included some who questioned or totally opposed registration.
"Most geoscientists I have spoken to aren't particularly happy,
historically, with how they've been integrated into APEGGA," Ms.
This selling job, she suggested, must occur both inside and outside APEGGA.
An important task force recommendation centres on improving the effectiveness and style of communication with geoscientists (including students). This, the task force suggests, can occur through The PEGG; via publications or events specifically geared for geoscientists -- including those sponsored by technical societies such as the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists and the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists.
Besides getting earth scientists to move toward APEGGA, the task force also suggests there may be some ways for APEGGA to become more accommodating by moving toward geoscientists.
As noted in the KPMG report, more than a third of geoscientists working
in Alberta are not APEGGA members. Ms. Honsberger notes that, particularly
in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the perception may have emerged of
trying to fit "round" geoscientists into "square"
regulatory "holes" which may have been designed mostly with
engineers in mind. Two decades ago, Alberta experienced a surge in hiring
of geoscientists (many now in the 40-to-50 demographic bulge). Among them
were geologists and geophysicists with Canadian or international training
who applied to register with APEGGA. However, the academic requirements
for licensing resulted in the applicants being assigned exams by the Board
of Examiners. Some perceived this as a slight against their training.
Furthermore, Ms. Honsberger suggested, the Board of Examiners of the day
may not have offered applicants much latitude to demonstrate how their
practical experience offset supposed academic shortcomings. Faced with
such deflection or rejection, some applicants simply never made another
attempt to register.
Where the Task Force goes from here will be determined within the next few months. Ms. Honsberger's view is that APEGGA should be working hard to bring on board the estimated 41 per cent of the geoscience practitioners who are not registered with the Association. The Task Force's goal for APEGGA is that, in time -- with strong communication links and a supportive, open attitude -- the Association will see those numbers improve for the betterment of all Albertans.
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