The registration listings — they may not be the most exciting reading in The PEGG. However, for those who find their names included among the new Professional Members or Members-in-Training (M.I.T.), that mention marks an important milestone along their professional journey and often represents years of dedicated effort.Publication of the names culminates the administrative process leading to registration as an M.I.T. or professional member. It is a process that has required co-ordinated efforts by the applicant, Association staff and, most importantly, the dedication of those serving as public representatives and volunteer members on APEGGA’s Board of Examiners, and as exam invigilators.
Becoming a Member-in-Training
For those graduating from an engineering program accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), the procedure leading to registration as an Engineer-in-Training (E.I.T.) is fairly straightforward. (A national accreditation process for earth science programs similar to the CEAB is being developed.) As undergraduate engineering and geoscience students approach the end of their final year, they are invited to an APEGGA-sponsored luncheon and workshop held in conjunction with Iron Ring and Earth Ring ceremonies. At that time, students are encouraged to fill out an application for membership in APEGGA. The forms are forwarded to the respective faculties and once the students have met their requirements for graduation, they are returned to APEGGA and graduates then are registered in one of the three M.I.T. categories — Engineer-in-Training (E.I.T.), Geologist-in-Training (Geol.I.T.) or Geophysicist in Training (Geoph.I.T.) Recent graduates of CEAB accredited programs at non-Alberta universities moving here to work are encouraged to apply for M.I.T. standing. Subject to satisfying academic requirements, enrolment in APEGGA usually is relatively uncomplicated, explains Dave Todd, P.Eng., APEGGA Director of Registration and Compliance. It’s Mr. Todd’s job to oversee the day-to-day administration of the registration process, with the help of six staff members (an additional two staff members work in Compliance — the subject of a subsequent article in this series.)
According to Mr. Todd, the vast majority of eligible Alberta graduates take advantage of the opportunity to register as M.I.T.s and, this past year, some 1,000 new M.I.T.s. were added to APEGGA’s rolls. The fact that for Alberta graduates M.I.T. membership fees are waived for the first year provides an added incentive to join. Enrolment as an M.I.T. brings with it the benefits of Association membership (including access to sponsored programs such as insurance, PEGG subscription and the APEGGA job-matching services) short of those accorded to full professional members (notably the right to vote for Council members and the authority to take full professional responsibility for one’s work).
The route to M.I.T. (and eventually full professional) status may prove somewhat more circuitous for those doing so on the basis of engineering or earth science training and experience acquired outside Canada.
Foreign-trained applicants are required to have the university from which they graduated submit, directly to APEGGA, a transcript of their academic record. (Experience references are required for full professional registration.)
These requirements differ somewhat in the case of some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, with which Canada has mutual recognition agreements for accredited programs. Once these documents are received by APEGGA, the academic record is passed on to one of 15 Academic Examiners who are members of the Board of Examiners Executive Committee. After examining the academic transcript, an Academic Examiner may require the candidate to write APEGGA-set confirmatory exams to confirm the quality of a degree which is not accredited by a body that the Board of Examiners recognizes. (Confirmatory exams may be assigned on specific topics if a candidate is unable to produce an original transcript.) The topics may vary greatly, but all exam candidates write their exams at sessions held in May and November. In the past year, some 120 candidates wrote such exams.
Once an Academic Examiner has examined the file, it is passed on to one of the 15 Experience Examiners on the Board of Examiners Executive Committee. If the applicant has 10 or more years of suitable experience, the experience reviewer may recommend waiving or reducing the confirmatory exams — a recommendation which members of the Board of Examiners can endorse at their regular meetings held every month, except July. Based on the evidence, the Board may recommend that the individual, subject to passing APEGGA’s Professional Practice Exam (P.P.E.), be granted professional standing as a P.Eng., P.Geol. or P.Geoph. The more likely scenario for foreign applicants is for the Board of Examiners to recommend that the individuals obtain one or more years of suitable Canadian experience before being granted professional membership.
An underlying principle with any application is that that the applicant, whether Canadian or foreign-trained, be of good character and not have a criminal record. The Board of Examiners will withhold approval if such criteria are not met.
The time required for foreign-trained applicants to receive full professional membership, will differ. Observes Mr. Todd: "I’d like to say three to six months but it’s difficult to say. Each situation is different. It’s hard to place a number on it or be too specific."
Professional Practice Exam
While the Board of Examiners has an important function in ensuring foreign applicants meet Canadian standards, the Board also plays a vital role as M.I.T.s make that all important transition to full professional membership. Before they can do so, M.I.T.s must write APEGGA’s Professional Practice Exam (P.P.E.). Those who have been M.I.T.s for two years are eligible to write the two-hour exam covering areas such as professionalism, professional practice, occupational health and safety, law and legal concepts as they relate to the APEGGA professions, and the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act. The multiple-choice exam is held quarterly and is marked on a pass-fail basis. The P.P.E.s are written in various centres in the province, and, if requested, at the offices of
APEGGA’s sister associations across Canada. Arrangements also can be made to write the exam outside Canada.
If M.I.T.s have passed the P.P.E. and have at least four years of appropriate experience following graduation, they are eligible to apply for full professional membership. (The Experience Examiner may award up to six months for co-op or internship placements, or work experience prior to completion of degree requirements.) M.I.T.s must provide the names of three references, one of whom must be a supervisor or mentor, and at least two of whom must be professional members.
Sometimes, the process is delayed if those supplying references (who are asked to reply within two weeks) are slow in forwarding their comments to APEGGA.
Mr. Todd observes: "The main hang-up is getting references. If the references come in promptly, the whole process could take as little as a month."
Once the required documentation has been compiled, it is reviewed by the Director of Registration and Compliance. If the experience requirements have been met — the Director passes the name and a summary of the qualifications on to the Board of Examiners with a recommendation that professional membership be granted.
Where Mr. Todd has questions about the references or the stated experience, the file is forwarded to an Experience Examiner and then to the Board of Examiners for acceptance, or the Board may recommend the candidate obtain more experience.
Mr. Todd estimates that about 40 per cent of the 40-to-50 applications for professional standing that cross his desk in a week make it onto the "Directors’ List", meaning they meet all the experience and other requirement. He stresses, however, that even the applications on the Director’s List can be questioned by the Board.
"The Board members are not bashful about questioning my opinion," Mr. Todd says, emphasizing that ultimately it is the Board, not he, who approves an application.
Interprovincial mobility agreements among APEGGA’s Canadian sister associations greatly facilitate the transfer of professional members who already are registered in other provinces and who have at least five years of experience. Where a check with the home association shows those criteria are met and there are no discipline infractions on the member’s record, the Director will recommend the Board approved the APEGGA membership. Additional documentation, including a reference, is required if the transfer applicant has less than five years of experience. If the transferees are graduates of a foreign university, a copy of their transcript is required.
Those who are registered by a U.S. state board as professional engineers in the United States can also take advantage of the "transfer of status" arrangement.
Though the whole transfer process, including approval by APEGGA’s Board of Examiner may take up to three months, the Director of Registration and Compliance is authorized to issue a "Temporary Letter of Authorization" permitting an individual to work in Alberta pending the Board of Examiners’ approval.
With Alberta’s active economy causing an influx of professionals and employers anxious to get them to work as soon as possible, the result, says Mr. Todd, is that "we issue a lot of Temporary Letters of Authority. It’s happening more and more."