What’s New… (August 01, 2007)
Crisis with Quebec highway structures
The Johnson Commission holding an enquiry into the collapse of the de la Concorde overpass in Laval north of Montreal wound up hearings late this summer.
In early July the commission took the unusual step of asking the Quebec Transport department immediately to check hundreds of bridges, ramps and overpasses in the province to ensure that the structures were safe. The commissioners became concerned after experts investigating the fallen overpass warned that problems might exist in similar structures.
Quebec Transport identified 135 structures for further analysis and called on consulting engineers to help them investigate. According to the government department, the concerns were “regarding structures with thick concrete slabs that do not have sufficient steel reinforcement to counter shear cracking.”
The Transport Ministry and the city of Montreal also banned heavy trailer trucks carrying excess loads from using several bridges and overpasses until engineers could verify that the structures were sound.
The Johnson Commission has heard various arguments about what caused the 20-metre slab to break off the Laval overpass and fall onto Highway 19 last year, killing five people. The reasons put forward relating to the original construction project in the 1970s include the use of poor concrete, inadequate or misplaced rebar and a lack of construction supervision. It’s also been pointed out that budget cutbacks in 1995 meant that the structure was not repaired as had been recommended.
One of the parties giving evidence at the hearing is the original engineering company, Desjardins Sauriol.
The commission is scheduled to report its findings in October.
KMK Consultants tops at Consulting Engineers of Ontario
Consulting Engineers of Ontario announced the winners of its 2007 awards at a dinner held in June in Waterloo, Ontario.
The Willis Chipman award winner went to KMK Consultants with Black and Veatch for the Lakeview Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade and Expansion for the Region of Peel, west of Toronto.
The original plant on the shores of Lake Ontario was built in 1961. The $250-million expansion increases its capacity from 336 to 448 ML/d and includes several new components. Among them is a new headworks that is designed for future requirements of 518 ML/d and is the largest perforated plate screening facility in North America. There is also a new fluidized bed incineration unit of 100 dry tonnes/day, which makes it the largest of its type in the world.
Projects that won awards of excellence from Consulting Engineers of Ontario — given in categories according to the size of the firm — were the Goodfellow EFSOP Technology at Topy Industries by Techint Goodfellow (1-25 employees), the Richmond Hill Transportation Master Plan by iTrans Consulting (26-100 employees), and Hatch Energy for the Shikwamkwa Dam (101+ employees).
Awards of merit went to projects by H.H. Angus & Associates, Earth Tech Canada, Golder Paste Technology, Philips Engineering and Stantec Consulting. A total of 24 firms entered the program
Mass transit on move in Vancouver
While cash-strapped Toronto threatens to close down subway lines it has already built (the Sheppard line), Vancouver is pressing ahead with expansions to its system.
In July, the Greater Vancouver Regional District approved funding for a $1-million study and public consultations program for the Broadway West Millennium Line. The proposal is to extend the line westward to Broadway central, and ultimately out to the University of B.C. Currently the line stops at Commercial Drive. At press time, Translink was yet to announce whether it would hire consultants to help do the studies.
Meanwhile the Canada Line (formerly known as the RAV), which will carry passengers from downtown Vancouver south to Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport, is about half-way completed and due to open in 2009. The outbound tunneling under False Creek and beyond is done, and the inbound tunneling is under way. SNC-Lavalin is in charge of the engineering and construction as part of the InTransit BC consortium.
Also being planned is a 12-station “Evergreen” line in the northeast.
Translink, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority, has a goal that by the year 2011, 40 per cent of the residents will have access to rapid transit.
PEO holds town hall meeting on foreign-trained engineers
By Rosalind Cairncross, P.Eng.
Foreign-trained engineers who are trying to find a foothold in Canada got the opportunity to engage the major forces which impact their professional lives at a town hall meeting held by the Mississauga chapter of Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) on May 22. The impressive panel included Liberal, Conservative and NDP members of the federal and provincial parliaments, representatives from PEO and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE), as well as government agencies and SNC-Lavalin.
Keynote speaker Jean Augustine, recently-installed Fairness Commissioner for Ontario, spoke first. Her agency is responsible for ensuring that Ontario’s 34 regulated professions, including engineering, treat foreign-trained applicants fairly. This is certainly helpful; nobody wants to be treated unfairly. But it is work that will take time.
A presentation in video vignettes of four foreign-trained engineers breathed life into the issue by introducing actual people with names, faces, and histories. Their experiences in Canada were food for thought. Despite high scores on the point system used by immigration authorities to determine admission to Canada, despite their engineering qualifications and experience, and despite their best efforts over time ranging from months to years, none of them had yet landed an engineering position.
The panelists proposed ways to tackle the problem. Some of these have been tried at various times with varying success. Governments have funded internships to provide the sometimes illusive “Canadian experience,” a source of endless agony and a Canadian peculiarity, it seems. Apparently U.S. companies do not require that immigrants to their country have American experience to land a job.
Federal and provincial governments have settlement programs aimed at foreign-trained professionals including engineers, the kinds of programs offered by Access Counselling and Community Services, represented on the panel by Allison Pond. Omar Alghabra, MP suggested that the federal government should get the provinces together on this issue and proposed tax incentives for employers. Frank Klees, MPP suggested the development of an “equivalency of experience” program.
Within the profession, things are changing as well. The PEO allows prospective immigrants to begin the licensing process before they come to Canada, and it grants provisional licenses. Incoming PEO president Walter Bilanski proposed international examinations for engineers. OSPE allows foreign-trained engineers who graduate from recognized institutions to join immediately, giving them access to a range of career and professional development programs. Organizations have offered mentoring, networking, language and cultural training to their clients and have made some effort towards tackling barriers such as racial prejudice.
But clearly, this human resource of foreign-trained engineers remains an untapped or at least an under-tapped one.
According to Dr. Bilanski and others, the explanation is simple. There are simply not enough jobs. Not enough to absorb all the local engineers who graduated last year, not enough to hire the roughly equal number of foreign-trained engineers who arrived here during the same period.
According to an engineer from PEGO, the provincial organization of gove
rnment engineers, the Ontario government is cutting engineering positions or not filling them. This struck a chord. If there are not enough jobs available for local engineers, chances for foreign-trained engineers become more remote.
These discussions prompted calls for better links between immigration policy and employment prospects. The engineers showcased in the video vignettes all commented that they had little or no information about job prospects prior to immigration. Perhaps they would have rethought their decision if they had had the information.
A recent announcement in the Toronto Star may help future prospective immigrants make better decisions. The Ontario government is launching a pilot program that will match skilled immigrants with employers and greatly speed up the immigration process for qualified candidates. Employers with specific needs will be able to nominate an applicant, providing the much needed link between immigration and employment.
The town hall meeting provided a forum for discussion of an issue which is distressing to the profession and is costing the local economy an estimated $7 billion annually.
Despite the best efforts of the moderator, however, the politicians, even those promising to be non-partisan, took up a good deal of time, leaving less for the audience who had plenty to say. Perhaps with a little more time, other ideas may have emerged.
(Do readers of CCE have ideas to offer which might help someone with a good technical education and international experience use it well?)
The best news of the evening came from Doug Hink, vice-president of SNC-Lavalin, a company that employs many foreign-trained engineers. He predicts a shortage of engineers in the future. This future cannot come fast enough for the foreign-trained engineers currently trying to make ends meet as best they can while searching for their place in the engineering profession in their new home.
Students left to sink or swim
Re. “Untapped Talent,” Marc Rosen, P.Eng., CCE, June-July, p.37
I have just finished Marc Rosen’s article. Thanks to Professor Rosen for being one of the few people I’ve ever heard address this problem.
As a student I was amazed at how little knowledge there was of the consulting world. (My father worked his whole life in consulting or I wouldn’t have known about it either.) I was even more amazed when I started working for a firm after graduation and found that I was the only person within five years of my age, in an office of 80 people.
In the years since, things have changed a little, but in a business obsessed with charge-out rates (and with no training budget) I don’t hold-out much hope for young Canadians trying to enter the consulting world. I struggled for five years to become a structural engineer by learning from well-intentioned people who couldn’t provide the time I needed because “training” doesn’t come with a charge code.
The message of consulting firms to young people is clearly sink or swim. Learn to swim and you may be valued as a productive employee. If you sink — see you at the UI office.
Thanks for a great article.
Paul V. Fricke, EIT
Canadian Consulting Engineer magazine welcomes letters from readers. Write to the editor, at 12 Concorde Place, Suite 800, Toronto, Ont., M3C 4J2, or e-mail email@example.com
*Genivar of Montreal has bought National Capital Engineering (NCE). NCE was founded seven years ago and has 35 employees in Ottawa, Kingston and Toronto. It specializes in transportation.
Genivar has also acquired SEG Engineering of Winnipeg. a company founded in 1979 that has 20 employees.
*Cobalt Engineering of Vancouver has acquired Pacific Rim Consultants, a 35-year old electrical engineering company based in Burnaby, B.C. Cobalt has moved into new premises in Burnaby following the acquisition.
*Marshall Macklin Monaghan of Toronto has rebranded itself “MMM Group.” All the company’s subsidiaries will use the new name, including Rybka Smith and Ginsler, ND LEA, Bel MK Engineering and Usher Canada. As MMM Group, the company represents more than 1,000 staff
*SNC-Lavalin of Montreal has acquired Wiebe Forest Engineering, based in Calgary. Wiebe Forest was launched in 1972 and has 50 employees. It provides mechanical, electrical and structural engineering services.
*AMEC has been ranked as the No. 1 international design firm in Canada by Engineering News Record. The publication rated companies based on their revenue for design services performed on projects outside the country in 2006. AMEC ranks No. 2 in the U.S. in the same category.
* Bruce Miller, P.Eng. has been appointed president of Morrison Hershfield and will operate from Calgary. Dwayne Johnston, P.Eng. succeeds Miller as vice-president, infrastructure west. Ron Wilson, P.Eng. is chief executive officer of the company, based in Toronto.
*Gartner Lee has appointed a new senior consultant in its Whitehorse office. Bill Klassen is a former Deputy Minister of Health and Human Resources and Deputy Minister of Renewable Resources in the Yukon Government.
* Peter Irwin, P.Eng. has been awarded the Jack E. Cermak Medal by the American Society of Civil engineers. Irwin is president and chief executive officer of RWDI in Guelph, Ontario. The medal is awarded to an individual in recognition of his lifetime of achievement in wind engineering.
“Just dropping, dropping, dropping”
An eight-lane bridge crossing the Mississippi river in Minneapolis collapsed on August 1. Cars tumbled 20 metres into the waters, resulting in at least five deaths and scores injured.
Interstate 35W bridge was built in 1967 as a 150-metre long steel arch span. It had reportedly been inspected two years earlier and found to be suffering from fatigue cracking. The bridge was undergoing surface repairs at the time it collapsed and a train was passing below.
CBC reported the reaction of a motorist who survived the accident. She heard, “Boom, boom, boom, and we were just dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping.”
Investigators with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board used laser guided cameras on helicopters to map the debris before it was removed.
Phew! No exams
Professional Engineers Ontario has confirmed that following the ruling by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in May, licensed engineers are not required to take building code examinations or stamp drawings with “BCIN” as well as their seal.
Toxins in humans vs. fish
Researchers led by a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver are calling on environmental agencies to change the methods they use to detect acceptable levels of toxins in humans.
Professor Frank Gobas’ team points out that because fish “breathe” water, the chemicals that tend to build up in their flesh are those that have trouble dissolving in water. However, toxins that have trouble dissolving in air — such as the pesticide lindane or fluorinated chemicals like Teflin — are easily eliminated in fish, but would accumulate in the bodies of air-breathing animals like humans and birds.
Global warming — let me outta here
Australia is to create a wildlife corridor spanning the continent. The 2,800-kilometre spine will provide a coast-to-coast escape route for animals and plants to move around following the effects of global warming.
Find technical help
Scitopia.org is a new sea
rch engine for finding papers and proceedings related to science and technology. So far 15 societies, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) are participating. Over 3 million documents are stored.
Ottawa Station hailed as landmark
The Ottawa Train Station won the 2007 Landmark Award from the Ontario Association of Architects. It was designed by architects and engineers at John B. Parkin Associates, which became NORR Partnership (Ingenium Group). It was completed in 1966. The large roof consists of exposed two-way steel trusses that are cantilevered 9 metres on all four sides.
September 13 to October 25 — Lighting Certification Live On-Line Course. Held by Osram Sylvania Lightpoint centre, Mississauga, Ont. $250. Tel. 905-671-5620, firstname.lastname@example.org
September 22-27 — Canadian Dam Association 2007 Annual Conference. St. John’s, Nfld., Delta Hotel. Tel. Barry Hurndall, 780-432-7236, www.cda.ca
September 27-28 — IIDEX/NeoCon Canada Lighting Show. Toronto, Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place. Launch of lighting event at the IIDEX/NeoCon exposition and conference. Will be Canada’s largest lighting event. Tel. Matthew Searle, 416-960-4517, www.iidexneocon.com
October 2 to February 21 2008 — NRC/Institute for Research in Construction One-Day Seminars on Fire Safety Research for Better Buildings. In cities across Canada. Tel. 613-993-9101, http://irc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
October 5-November 15 — Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating CIPHEX Roadshow 2007. St. John’s Oct. 5, Winnipeg Nov. 1, Saskatoon Nov. 6, Regina Nov. 8, Vancouver Nov. 15. Tel. Norm Schulz, 416-695-0447, www.ciphexroadshow.com