Ten Things You Need to Know About Professional Practice

Self-regulation can be complicated, and for new registrants it can be a lot of information to take in while launching a career. Knowing whether you are licensed to do the work you are asked to do in your role or are meeting all your professional obligations and practice requirements can sometimes feel like this:

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Ascher Prescott, an adorable white and grey cat with striking blue eyes.APEGA’s Professional Practice Department took the time to chat with me about some of the basics and outline the supports in place for registrants. Here’s what I found out (besides the fact that the team has an unofficial mascot that has made several impromptu appearances over the past two years while the team has worked virtually. Please take a moment to appreciate the ever-professional Ascher Prescott before we begin):

Now, let’s jump right in!

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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.” Basically, the team is here to regulate and to help! It is accountable to…wait for it…

2. The Practice Review Board!

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

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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?

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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. Here's where the numbers start coming at you!

We’re going to talk a bit about CPD hours. CPD Practice Advisor Kasia Hinks, P.Geoph., lays it out in a straightforward way. If you are a practising licensed professional:

  • you must claim at least 240 CPD hours over three years
  • you should target to do an average of 80 CPD hours each year
  • you 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 you earned more CPD hours than the yearly category maximum, you can carry them forward for up to two years from the date you completed the activity. Find out more about the categories and how to record your 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.

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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.

Wong 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!

 

 

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7. Want to know more?

There are 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.

Check out the upcoming webinars the team is holding to learn more and stay up to date with recent practice changes (but remember to refer to the standards and guidelines themselves for the latest requirements!):

APEGA also holds regular Permit to Practice seminars. Responsible Members must attend this seminar within the first six months of their designation as a Responsible Member and at least every five years thereafter. There are online and in-person options. Visit APEGA’s events page to find the next scheduled session or log in to myAPEGA to take the available online courses.

BONUS! When you’re done, you can download a certificate of completion and claim CPD hours.

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

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You 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 APEGA’s volunteer website to find opportunities to get involved.

9. Should I be nervous about a practice review?

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

She explains APEGA approaches practice 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.”

Tip o’ the day: The Professional Practice Management Plan (PPMP) standard is now in effect! When you update your PPMP, make sure to download the new PPMP template and use it to document your current practices.

10. The Professional Practice Department is here to help (and they are really helpful)!

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.”

Final thoughts: A thorough process can be made seamless when you have a team like Professional Practice behind the scenes—not to mention Ascher Prescott, who says, “if you have questions, get in touch by emailing [email protected] right meow!”

 

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