APEGGA’s Essential Function
By Dan Motyka, P.Eng. During my several months "on the job" as President of the Association, I have found myself either formally, and in more casual settings, telling people about APEGGA. Sometimes, my listeners are quite well versed about APEGGA and it then becomes a matter of perhaps updating them on some of our more recent Association policies or initiatives. In other instances, those I talk with have neverheard of APEGGA, much less know why it exists or the role it performs. I enjoy taking the time to enlighten them a bit.
A Privilege and A Responsibility
I inform them that APEGGA is not simply an "association" but one which owes its existence to specific Alberta legislation — the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions (EGGP) Act. Through this Act, the Alberta Legislature has delegated the privilege and the responsibility of administering the statute regulating the practice of the professions of engineering, geology and geophysics within the province in the public interest. My emphasis on the word privilege is very deliberate. Just as the government has given our professions the privilege of self-governance — exercised between annual general meetings by our elected Council — government also can remove this authority from APEGGA.
Self-governance implies that under the EGGP Act we can establish the rules (subject to Cabinet endorsement of changes we propose to our regulations) relating to those entitled to practice within the exclusive scopes of practice for engineering, geology and geophysics defined in the Act. For those who fail to meet the expectations placed upon them when licensed by APEGGA, as self-governing professions, we are empowered to take disciplinary action.
In addition to the privilege of governing our own, we also have the authority — through our compliance procedures — to take action against those illegally providing such services or using the restricted titles of P.Eng., P.Geol., or P.Geoph., when not licensed to do so.
If while talking about APEGGA, I still have the listeners’ attention, I remind them that although APEGGA has the powers to step in when infractions or suspected infractions have occurred, we much prefer to dispense preventive medicine. We do this through the registration process which ensures that those wanting to practice engineering, geology or geophysics in the province are properly qualified and experienced to do so. In the case of graduates of Canadian education institutions, the process is made very much easier by the fact that engineering schools are accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB). The latter operates as an adjunct to the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE). We have a high degree of assurance that persons who have graduated from CEAB accredited programs have satisfied high technical educational requirements, have the ability to work in a team environment and are aware of the societal implications and responsibilities of engineering, geology and geophysics. As the newly created Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists (CCPG ) grows and develops, we look forward to receiving similar quality assurance services and national standards for these professions as well.
Board of Examiners’ Role
In addition to ensuring that applicants meet the educational requirements, APEGGA’s Board of Examiners — whose membership includes APEGGA professionals and Public Members appointed by the Alberta Government — makes sure that those wishing to use our restricted titles understand their professional obligations. This vetting occurs by having applicants write the Professional Practice Exam and through submission of references vouching for their character and ability.
The Board of Examiners also gauges whether those trained abroad, within different academic environments, meet APEGGA and Canadian standards.
APEGGA is more than a gatekeeper and has a continuing responsibility of ensuring that those already in our professions remain professionally competent. One way this occurs is through practice reviews. The recently implemented mandatory Continuing Professional Development Program is another mechanism to help ensure practitioners remain current in their field of specialization.
There is more to APEGGA than what I have outlined here. Many of you are familiar with the role that the Association plays in providing leadership and in enhancing public recognition of our professions. We do this through initiatives that inform our members, community leaders and the wider public about our contribution toward societal and environmental betterment, and, above all, toward the protection of the public. We also have educational initiatives that promote interest in science and technology, and that encourage young people to enter our professions.
These activities are significant but they are very much the cart, not the horse. Our essential function, the horse, if you will, remains that of a self-governing body entrusted to administer and enforce the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act so that the public interest may be served and protected.
A Place for Advocacy
Of late, our members have shown interest in having APEGGA play a larger role in representing the interests of members. The concept of advocacy has been the subject of much debate and generally is deemed to include two main categories of activity, services to members and proactive representation of members interests. Let me briefly discuss each.
During the past several years APEGGA Council has considered the types of services that might be made available to members. Various insurance programs have been available for some time, generally under the sponsorship of CCPE, and others have recently been added. As well, certain group discounts have been negotiated for products and services that professional members frequently require, and others are being considered. Council has taken the approach that such services may be considered provided they are not seen to be self-serving or in any way to impact on our ability to fulfil the obligation of self-governance. Initiatives must be carefully crafted to provide additional value to professional membership without detracting from our professional image.
Proactivity, on the other hand, causes greater concerns for some members and must be approached with great caution. In keeping with our responsibility to remain neutral and impartial in any dispute which might require adjudication through the discipline process, public statements concerning current issues must be carefully considered before being released, if indeed they are to be released at all. We must be mindful of our prime responsibility to protect the public interest and we must never prejudice our ability to impartially fulfil our responsibilities of self-governance. Recent initiatives which have been effective in promoting the "value of engineering, geology and geophysics" in the eyes of the public and of government; programs designed to raise awareness of the professions by students and the public; and participation in economic development activities and marketing of the professions in the world marketplace are but a few examples of how APEGGA is being proactive on behalf of members.
APEGGA has many roles to play. Your Council, the staff and the hundreds of volunteers who assist us in making all this work, together represent a highly capable team of professionals that has earned a reputation for APEGGA as being one of the leading Associations across Canada. I will continue to tell my story whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.