Canadian Consulting Engineer

B.C. merger between engineers and technologists put to vote

May 5, 2003
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Engineers and geoscientists in British Columbia are facing a big decision this month, as they hold a referendum on...

Engineers and geoscientists in British Columbia are facing a big decision this month, as they hold a referendum on whether to merge with technologists.
If approved, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) — which has 19,500 members and was founded in 1920 — would start putting in motion the legal action necessary to absorb the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C. (ASTTBC). The latter is an organization of 7,200 that was given the right to give titles in 1985. Instead of two organizations and two Acts, professionals and technologists would both fall under one organization and one legislative Act.
A joint task force has been working on the issue for two years, coming to terms with the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed merger. Professional engineers are university-educated and have to satisfy stricter experience and examination requirements than technologists in order to practice. One question for the professional engineers, therefore, is whether a merger could compromise their public image.
As outlined by the task force, integration of the two groups is a natural fit because the work of technologists and engineers has become increasingly interrelated. The task force proposal, says an APEGBC information booklet: “is founded on the premise that the practices of engineering and geoscience technology are components of the fields of engineering and geoscience, respectively. Members typically work in team environments and should, therefore, be regulated in a common fashion.”
The merger’s proponents also argue that regulating technologists and professional engineers and geoscientists under one Act and one organization will increase public protection and clarify responsibilities. According to the APEGBC information booklet: “It was their [the task force’s] view that, by regulating the entire scope of the practices of engineering and geoscience in a common and consistent manner, confusion by all parties will be minimized or eliminated, greater accountability will be achieved, and well-defined practice standards across the entire spectrum of practice can be developed and maintained.”
After the merger, there would still be distinctions between what work an engineer and a technologists are entitled to do. Indeed the proposal lists many layers of membership: technicians, technologists, engineers/geoscientists-in-training, limited licensees, registered professional technologists, as well as professional engineers and professional geoscientists.
One of the issues that has been causing engineers concern is over whether the technologists would be able to set up in practice independently — thus presumably creating competition for consulting engineers. The proponents of the merger respond that the technologists will only be able to engage in unsupervised practice when they are following prescribed codes and standard procedures as approved by the new organization Council. Whether that answer is clear enough to allay fears about making such a drastic change will be known on June 6, when the results of the referendum are announced.


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