Ten Things Registrants Need to Know About Professional Practice

From keeping on top of practice updates to meeting your continuing professional development requirements, APEGA's Professional Practice Department knows self-regulation can be complicated. Check out the top 10 things Professional Practice thinks you should know, as well as other supports available for registrants.

1. What is Professional Practice?

Professional Practice is the department responsible for ensuring licensed professionals and permit holders meet their regulatory obligations. It oversees four pillars of activities:

  • continuing professional development (CPD)
  • licensure administration
  • practice reviews
  • practice standards

These activities are managed by APEGA employees who are experienced licensed professionals.

What do they want?

Allan Ng, P.Eng., director of Professional Practice, explains the department wants to protect the public, enhance practices, and be a centre of excellence for registrants. “We are a source of knowledge and a place registrants can call on when they need help understanding how to fulfil their obligations.” He explains they are here to regulate and to help. The team is accountable to the Practice Review Board.

2. The Practice Review Board

This statutory entity is the decision-maker empowered through the Engineering and Geoscience Professions (EGP) Act.

It is responsible for the very same four pillars as the Professional Practice Department, and it:

  • develops and maintains professional practice standards, guidelines, and bulletins
  • evaluates the professional practice and competence of registrants, licensees, permit holders, and certificate holders
  • administers and enforces the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program
  • inquires into the practice of the profession by professional members, licensees, permit holders, and certificate holders

The Practice Review Board is made up of 10 professional members with a variety of experience and backgrounds appointed by APEGA Council, and one member of the public appointed by the Government of Alberta. This board has four subcommittees, one for each activity pillar. 

3. Am I practising? Can I practise?

CPD Practice Advisor Michael Colgan, P.Eng., says he gets asked these questions often and wants to make sure registrants understand the answers so they can take appropriate action.

  • If you are a life member, you have declared you are retired and non-practising.
  • If you have declared to be non-practising, you cannot practise the professions in Alberta.
  • If you are non-practising and want to resume practice, you need permission from the Practice Review Board.

“A common misconception is that if you don’t authenticate, or if you don’t design, then you’re not practising,” says Colgan, but he explains the definition is much broader.

Are you looking to return to practice? Here’s everything you need to know.

4. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours

CPD Practice Advisor Kasia Hinks, P.Geoph., wants to ensure CPD hours are easy to understand.

If you are a practising licensed professional, you:

  • must claim at least 240 CPD hours over three years
  • should target to do an average of 80 CPD hours each year
  • must claim CPD hours in at least three out of six categories each year (professional practice, formal activity, informal activity, participation, presentations, contributions to knowledge). You can read about them in the Continuing Professional Development practice standard

If registrants earned more CPD hours than the yearly category maximum, they can carry them forward for up to two years from the date the activity was completed. Find out more about the categories and how to record CPD hours.

5. Making a declaration

Each year, licensed professionals—practising and non-practising—are expected to submit an annual declaration in myAPEGA before paying their annual dues. In line with APEGA’s mandate of protecting the public welfare of Albertans, the annual declaration is intended to confirm the obligations and legal requirements of licensed professionals under the EGP Act on an annual basis. It comprises:

  • an acknowledgement that your contact information is accurate and complete
  • an acknowledgement that CPD is an annual requirement (for practising registrants)
  • a renewal of your non-practising declaration (for non-practising registrants)
  • an acknowledgement of practice limitations (if any)
  • a character declaration

Ng explains, “Making a declaration holds you to a higher standard in terms of public safety, and it’s an important part of self-regulation and in keeping trust with the public.”

Want to know more about the annual declaration? Check the annual declaration policy or visit the annual declaration web page.

6. Standards, guidelines, and bulletins

Carla Wong, P.Eng., professional practice standards manager, explains standards, guidelines, and bulletins are different.

  • Professional practice standards set the minimum standard of practice permit holders and licensed professionals must meet, and the minimum standard APEGA registrants are held to if they are assessed by APEGA’s statutory boards.
  • Professional practice guidelines provide professional practice advice and best practice recommendations and may be used for assessment by APEGA’s statutory boards.
  • A professional practice bulletin provides mandatory requirements and clarity on a specific subject related to professional practice and remains in force until it is repealed.

She has a reminder for permit holders: “We are in the transition period for the Professional Practice Management Plan practice standard that went into effect in May 2022. Enforcement begins in May 2023, so we encourage permit holders to review the standard and make any necessary changes to their PPMP before this date.”

Check out this reference guide and PPMP template to make the change as smooth as possible!

7. Want to know more?

APEGA offers online courses to help registrants understand their obligations as described in the practice standards. You can access them in your myAPEGA account under Practice Standards.

Learn more and stay up to date with recent practice changes by regularly checking out the practice standards, bulletins, and guidelines page. APEGA also holds information sessions throughout the year, such as the Permit to Practice seminar, which is a requirement for all APEGA Responsible Members. Visit APEGA's events page to see all available educational opportunities.

8. The Professional Practice department wants registrants to get involved!

Registrants can influence your profession and give back by volunteering on a statutory board or committee. “Our volunteers help with practice standard development, the CPD Program, practice reviews, and licensure administration applications. It’s an excellent way to contribute to the professions, plus you can earn CPD hours while doing it,” says Wong.

“Another way to get involved is through the public engagement phase of practice standards and guideline development.” She shares this is an important part of self-regulation and an opportunity for your perspectives to be considered throughout development.

Check out the ePEG newsletter or apega.ca, email the Professional Practice Department at [email protected], or visit our volunteer website to find opportunities to get involved.

9. Practice reviews

Wanda Goulden, P.Eng., P.Geo., practice review manager, says there’s no need to be nervous about practice reviews.

She explains APEGA approaches these reviews in a collegial manner and provides permit holders with a list of findings and a time frame to bring their practices into compliance.

“The most frequent findings from APEGA practice reviews are that the permit holder hasn’t adopted updated practice standards. Authentication continues to be the area we spend a lot of time on, but it’s also the area we see significant improvement in during the review process.”

She explains there is an easy way to remedy this issue: review APEGA’s standards regularly. “A great time to do this is during the annual update of your Professional Practice Management Plan. Reach out to Professional Practice if you need clarity on practice requirements.”

The Professional Practice Management Plan (PPMP) standard is now in effect. Registrants can download the new PPMP template when updating their PPMP and use it to document current practices.

10. The Professional Practice Department is here to help

Ng wants licensed professionals and permit holders to know if they have questions, they can reach out to the team for support. The team provides one-on-one work with registrants to make sure they understand their requirements and have the tools they need, and it even presents regulatory sessions to permit holders upon request.

“We’re here to ensure safe and competent practice across Alberta through education, practice guidance, and right-touch regulation. If people have questions, we want to get them the answers they need. We are here to provide clarity, not gaze through a lens of scrutiny.”

Registrants can contact the Professional Practice department at [email protected].ca.