Four Years in the Life of Continuing Professional Development
LEN SHRIMPTON, P.ENG., MBA
Director, Professional Development
It's been four years since APEGGA implemented its mandatory CPD Program.
Members are starting to ask whether it is having the desired effect.
Why did we do it?
Before providing the update it is worth a few paragraphs to review why
APEGGA implemented the program. It represented a radical departure from
what had been done for the previous 75 years. For three quarters of a
century we just had to pay our dues and avoid complaints that would have
run us afoul of the discipline process.
For some, this new requirement was an assault on what it meant to be a
professional; for others, it was a nuisance; for still others, a poor
attempt to control the quality of our professionals after registration.
But for many it was considered the right time to institute an additional
measure to assist members and the profession in trying to assure a higher
quality of service.
Our professions are generally well respected by the public and
by the international community. That is because our members have been
maintaining their competence by being involved in a myriad of activities.
It is reassuring to see the level of PD activity that many of our
It was clear from the government, responding to public complaints, that
more had to be done to ensure competence within all the professions -
not just engineering, geology and geophysics. A 1990 Alberta government
report on the Principles and Policies Governing Professional Legislation
(the Mirosh Report) made it clear.
Some have claimed that our professions were unfairly swept up in an omnibus
policy that was more directed at other professions from which far more
complaints were being received. Some have claimed that we had to react
to the technologists issue by appearing to have more control over the
quality of the professions. Some felt that a stimulus was needed to refocus
the attention of some of our professionals on the need for more development.
You can understand the scepticism from the public about the regulation
of professions that relied only on a minimum standard for initial entry
and a code of ethics for ongoing competence. The reliance on a code of
ethics proved to be ill-advised in several cases that got the public's
attention, albeit in other professions. Whatever the reason or reasons,
the writing was on the wall.
In the government's eye, it wasn't a question of whether there would be
additional controls, it was what they would look like. And this was the
root of many members' concern. After all, aren't we members of self-regulating
professions? Why didn't this program go to a member vote?
The reality is that we report to the government and as professionals we
must protect the public interest and respond to public concern. Input
from the rank and file on this issue was limited mostly to the design
of the program -- not whether there was going to be a program. Having
said that, the vote at the April 1997 Annual General Meeting overwhelmingly
supported the introduction of a program.
A referendum in 1995 or 1996 on whether to have a mandatory program would
have been defeated, as it was in Manitoba. A similar decision in Alberta
by the membership at large would probably have forced the government to
impose a program as it has had to do in the health profession. An imposed
program would likely have been less palatable to the members and the relationship
with the government would have been strained.
I believe that a vote now would have a different outcome.
Where are we now?
Have our efforts met the government's objectives? Without pretending to
speak for the government, I believe the answer is yes. The government
supports our program and is pleased that several other jurisdictions have
adopted ours as the foundation on which to build their own. Our program
does not ensure competence but it has generated a greater awareness of
the importance of PD and has increased the level of participation by many
corporations and individuals. Fortunately, for our professions, most of
our members have had to do nothing more than they were doing before. Other
than, of course, report the level of their activity. Our professions are
generally well respected by the public and by the international community.
That is because our members have been maintaining their competence by
being involved in a myriad of activities. It is reassuring to see the
level of PD activity that many of our members undertake.
But let's look at the other side of the coin. While many or most of our
members are "on top of their game," some are not. Some members
are not keeping up and needed personal encouragement or some support from
the profession to prod their employers to support their development.
We owed it to the public to identify members who were no longer practicing.
We owed it to the public to ensure that members who are going through
a long protracted phase out of their practice are doing so in a competent
manner. We owed it to the public to review the qualifications of members
who are returning to active practice or ex-members who are requesting
a reinstatement of their membership and haven't been licensed anywhere
These are all positive outcomes of the program.
Some statistics may be of interest.
Number of professional members - 25,000
Members declaring themselves to be practicing - 92%
Members reporting annually - 94%
Members reporting who are not compliant - <.1%
It is interesting to note the high percentage of us who declare ourselves
to be practicing on the basis of still "influencing" the practice
of the professions. To date, the random reviews suggest that the declarations
of practicing have been appropriate.
Six per cent or about 1,500 of our members have not reported. In October
the first list was prepared of 250 members who were invoiced in April
and May who have paid but have not reported since the inception of the
program. This year alone, these individuals have been sent the original
request, two written follow-ups and a phone call to encourage submission.
It was April 1998 that the government approved the legislative changes
that empowered APEGGA to implement this program. April 2001 represented
the soonest that APEGGA thought it could take legislative action against
those who do not comply, on the basis that the numerical requirements
for the program are derived from a three-year total.
We owed it to the public to identify members who were no longer
practicing. We owed it to the public to ensure that members who are
going through a long protracted phase out of their practice are doing
so in a competent manner. We owed it to the public to review the qualifications
of members who are returning to active practice or ex-members who
are requesting a reinstatement of their membership and haven't been
licensed anywhere else.
The PRB and the investigative committees have not yet met to determine
how these individuals are to be handled. A charge of unprofessional conduct
and sanctions are possible.
A very small percentage of members who reply don't meet the numerical
or diversity requirements. Starting in October, those members invoiced
since April 2001 are now being referred to the PRB for a review. The PRB
may impose some conditions for improvement, may impose some restrictions
on the practice or may allow continued practice if it doesn't significantly
impact the public safety or interest.
Practicing members randomly reviewed since Jan 2001 - 160
Practicing members randomly reviewed who were referred to Practice Review
Board (no submission was the only cause) - 4
Practicing members randomly reviewed who were referred to PRB and were
resolved - 1
Since January 2001, one per cent of practicing members have been chosen
randomly for review. Of the 160 reviewed 97.5 per cent meet the letter
of the program, i.e. they have declared the appropriate number of hours
in the various categories. The supporting documentation has varied from
very elaborate to barely sufficient to one that was totally inadequate.
Four members have been referred to the PRB for failing to submit the information
requested. One subsequently complied and decisions on the other three
are pending. Several have declared presentation hours inappropriately
based on a misunderstanding of which presentations apply.
The Professional Development Committee has decided that the CPD Program
Activity Report is sufficient evidence of a claim, i.e. copies of certificates
or documents verifying attendance etc. are not required.
However, many members are not meeting the intent of the program, i.e.
they are not proactively planning their PD activities in advance by evaluating,
with their supervisors, what skills they could update or improve.
Many of us still react to that e-mail or that brochure that comes across
our desks. On the other hand, with the introduction of competency or skills
management into more and more companies' human resource planning requirements,
many of our members are doing more detailed planning.
Non-practicing members randomly reviewed since Jan 2001 - 40
Non-practicing members who were deemed to be practicing and resolved by
PDC - 1
Non-practicing members randomly reviewed who were referred to Practice
Review Board - 0
Since January 2001, three per cent of non-practicing members have been
chosen randomly for review to varify that they have chosen that status
appropriately. With one exception, the choices have been appropriate.
That individual readily changed status and reported retroactively when
the definition of the practice of engineering was explained.
Reinstatement requests since Jan 2001 - 42
Reinstatement requests referred to PRB - 6
This review is done only on members who have not held membership for
more than two years. 36 cases were clear-cut and approved by staff and
the Professional Development Committee. Six were referred to the PRB for
consideration. Although four have not been evaluated, no conditions for
reinstatement have been imposed on the two cases that have been.
Resumption requests since Jan 2001 - 6
Resumption requests referred to PRB - 1
This review is done only on members who have been non-practicing for
more than two years. Five were clear-cut and approved by staff and the
Professional Development committee. Some conditions were imposed by the
PRB on one member who had not practiced in over six years.
Costs - about $150,000 or $6 per professional member per year
Areas of Expertise
Our initial listing of areas of expertise proved to be inadequate. Based
on a Stats Canada listing, it has been modified once and is going through
another revision now to better reflect in which areas our members practice.
This exercise to better define where our members work will prove invaluable
in the future when we are asked to provide input on specific issues.
Delivery/facilitation of Professional Development
The introduction of the CPD Program has also had a profound influence
on the kind of activities that APEGGA is prepared to get involved in that
help members to access PD opportunities of all kinds. We have introduced
PD Days, PD Evenings and a PD Conference; we have expanded monthly luncheons
with keynote speakers; we have partnered with other service and regulatory
bodies in PD events; we have enhanced our University Student and Member-in-training
programs and are promoting an On-line Learning Marketplace in which we
hope the federal and provincial governments will be financial partners.
We are also asking the federal government to consider a change to the
tax laws that would provide fairer treatment of professional development
costs for employees who work for corporations that do not pay for their
Our events appear to be welcomed by our members, as evidenced by attendance
figures numbering thousands each year. I don't think there would have
been this emphasis on serving the members without the mandatory aspect
to continuing professional development.
So, has the CPD Program had the desired effect? In many respects it has
had a positive influence on both our regulatory and member service roles.
The above are the facts. You be the judge.
If you applaud or have concerns about what APEGGA is doing in this area,
don't hesitate to give us a call. Your advice is welcome.