The Backbone of Your Practice

The Professional Practice Management Plan (PPMP) documents and defines how you practise engineering and geoscience—it provides the framework to articulate optimal standards and practices that are safe and ethical.

It describes the corporate policies, procedures, and systems used to ensure organizations and licensed professionals practising engineering, geoscience, or both maintain appropriate standards of professional practice. APEGA permit holders must develop and follow their PPMP to protect the public and demonstrate meeting the intent of the Engineering and Geoscience Professions (EGP) Act and the General Regulation.

 Tom Johnston, P.Eng., FEC, FGC (Hon.), firmly promotes the PPMP as being the backbone of your practice. Johnston is on his fourth term as a member of APEGA’s Practice Review Board, marking more than 10 years of service. He is the Responsible Member for APEGA permit holder AQT Water Management Inc., an oilfield services company focused on water treatment and disposal.

 Johnston joined the Practice Review Board to give back to his profession and make a difference, believing that participating is a way to move things forward. He explains the new Professional Practice Management Plan practice standard is a key tool for the professions. “It ensures the process that permit holders use to develop PPMPs is both clear and comprehensive.” 

A clear and comprehensive plan

 The Professional Practice Management Plan practice standard came into effect on May 1, 2022, giving permit holders a year-long transition period to comply with the standard before enforcement begins on May 1, 2023. It replaces the Guideline for Professional Practice Management Plans (v1.4) and addresses what a PPMP is, what its purpose is, and who is responsible for it. It also explains the nine parts of a PPMP in detail.

 “This is a document you’re required to have under the legislation to help you run your practice and meet all your obligations—so it’s for you,” clarifies Carla Wong, APEGA’s professional practice standards manager. “This standard was created by licensed professionals for licensed professionals. It has gone through public engagement and been reviewed by the Practice Review Board, and it is approved by APEGA Council.”

Consistently improving to preserve public trust

 “You can’t write your PPMP in isolation,” Wong cautions. “You need to read the other standards and understand them first. Your PPMP is meant to be a living, working document that is updated annually. It will evolve as things change—be it your practice or the relevant legislation, standards, or codes.” She recommends taking advantage of APEGA’s many online resources to ensure your practice complies with the new requirements before the practice standard becomes enforceable.

 Registrants can also:

While a PPMP template has been provided, examples of PPMPs aren’t provided for good reason, explains Wong—a PPMP is meant to describe your practice. “Practices vary considerably in degree and complexity based on the size and nature of the work, so it’s different for everybody. Some can be lengthy and some brief, depending on if the PPMP belongs to a large or small permit holder. You can specialize and articulate your PPMP in a fashion that suits your practice.”

If a section doesn’t apply to your practice, she explains, you still need to include the section with a rationale as to why it doesn’t pertain to you. For example, if you do not outsource, you can simply state that.

What does my PPMP do?

 Besides being a defining document of your practice, your PPMP provides value in myriad other ways.

 It can inform new employees of your company’s policies and procedures, providing them with comprehensive guidance at the outset of their onboarding.

“It’s one of the things the people I hire have to read and understand and be able to articulate back to me, along with all of our regulatory documents,” says Johnston. Wong adds it’s also a tool you can use to communicate process changes to employees.

“The way I envision it, it is the core of how you should run your practice and how you ensure your practice is compliant. I must adhere to many regulations and follow standards to maintain my permit with APEGA. Building my PPMP makes it much easier to stay on top of everything,” says Johnston. He explains creating a comprehensive PPMP enables you to use it as a tool and lever for education, ensuring people practise safely, properly, and in compliance. “It’s vital to protect your organization, your employees, the public, and our professions.”

 Permit holders can also use it to help convey to other organizations how they comply with standards and relevant regulations and guidelines.

 After updating his PPMP, Johnston began using it to choose who he works with. “When I’m going out and securing external engineering resources, I ask to see their PPMP. It gives me insight into how they’re running their practice and how compliant they are.” He says in the past, when outsourcing engineering, he would generally use someone he knew in the business based on their experience. “Now, I find that I’m able to extend my options to other people and look at how they function in their practice, and I’m using their PPMP as one of my tools to decide who I retain.”

 Permit holders are required to have a PPMP to comply with the EGP Act—it is a legislated portion of a permit holder’s practice in Alberta. Wong says permit holders often ask if it is transferable from province to province. “APEGA determines the requirements in Alberta. We cannot speak for what other jurisdictions will accept. PPMPs in Alberta must meet the minimum requirements outlined in the practice standard,” she explains. She also clarifies that while APEGA encourages permit holders to share relevant parts of their PPMPs with each other to promote good practice, it is not a requirement.

A strong backbone

 Johnston is proud of the role he plays in preserving self-regulation—because he wants the professions to retain the ability to do so. “I think, especially in times when things are changing rapidly and new technologies are being developed, it’s better to be self-regulating so you can adapt, be flexible, and move quickly with the changing role of engineering in society.”

 He sees a robust PPMP for each permit holder as a cornerstone in maintaining—and continually building—public trust in the professions. “It’s not just writing it because you want to be compliant. It’s the right way to ensure you have all the processes in place to run a really solid engineering or geoscience practice.”