APEGGA's proposal to introduce a new classification of engineers and geoscientists has created controversy within the engineering community.
The Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geo-physicists of Alberta spent a year developing three registration categories--Registered Engineer, Registered Geologist and Registered Geophysicist--which would fall somewhere between Registered Technicians and Professional Engineers or Geoscientists. APEGGA hopes to license and regulate practitioners, many of whom are already working in the field but fail to meet the requirements for licensure as professionals.
APEGGA's rationale for the move is to recognize those who have a degree from uncredited institutions in foreign countries and their work.
"These are people who, unlike technologists, may have a university degree of some sort, they may have an [unaccredited] engineering degree from a foreign country, but for various personal reasons they're unable to make up any deficiencies by taking university courses or writing exams from our board of examiners that would allow them to reach full professional status," said APEGGA's Executive Direc-tor and Registrar Neil Windsor. "Many of these people are highly skilled in an area of practice, and council has decided that it would be appropriate to bring them inside the association so that we can regulate them."
Windsor stated more regulation would mean safer practices within the industry, stressing that "public safety is the bottom line."
Opposition to the change stems from a concern that public safety will be jeopardized if unqualified candidates are licensed by APEGGA.
"The fact that their academic qualifications would not be looked at in detail implies that people who are not academically qualified would also be registered as a professional of some kind," said Chemical Engineering professor Dr. Anil Mehrotra, who also serves on APEGGA's Board of Examiners.
He feels that the new categories are unnecessary and he questions why APEGGA should be licensing individuals who fail to meet the professional standard.
"This could create all kinds of safe- ty concerns," added Dr. Mehrotra.
Students' Union Faculty of Engineering representative Wesley Ferris admits some concerns within the faculty have less to do with public safety and more with the basic need for job security.
"This essentially devalues the engineering education," said Ferris."If they have less schooling and are less qualified, companies can probably pay them less. The demand for professional engineers may go down, which is what quite a few [members] were worried about."
Ferris adds that increased competition would lead to a drop in job availability, which would definitely have implications for students working towards their degree.
The decision was originally scheduled for this year's annual general meeting, but has been postponed indefinitely in light of growing opposition.
"The proposal was weak, in my opinion. It wasn't well thought out," said Dr. Mehrotra. "It definitely created a lot of controversy and people were very upset.
"[The council] should involve a wide consultation with the APEGGA membership into the proposal."
Windsor promised these concerns would not go unanswered.
"Council is going to look again at some of the details of what was proposed, and make sure we give people every opportunity to have input before they proceed with it," he explained.