The CSEG/CSPG/APEGGA Liaison Committee has been considering issues that commonly arise in discussions with geologists and geophysicists when the subject of APEGGA is raised. The goal of the committee is to try to facilitate change from within the system in order to demonstrate that APEGGA can be sensitive and can change when reasonable arguments are made and backed up with workable recommendations. Frequently these concerns center around initial registration, and relate to the acceptance (or lack of acceptance) by APEGGA of the qualifications of individuals.
In order to improve their understanding and awareness of the processes and standards used by APEGGA, the Committee invited representatives of the APEGGA Board of Examiners to a meeting. An academic examiner and an experience examiner attended a recent meeting, and reviewed the specific processes and procedures used.
The confidentiality of the process was one key element addressed. APEGGA treats the information provided by applicants and their references as strictly confidential, and recognizes that it is to be used only for the purpose for which it was intended. In addition to the confidential treatment given to the information, there is no action taken against an otherwise registrable person, who has delayed submission of an application for registration for a long period of time. While such a person is technically not entitled to practice geology or geophysics or to use a title that implies that the user is entitled to practice until registered, APEGGA will not come back on an applicant on the basis of information in the applicant's registration file.
Another key element of the presentation was the consideration that is given to the qualifications of an applicant who does not meet the usual profile, consisting of an approved degree, plus a minimum of two years of post-degree experience. Because there is no external agency such a the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board that carries out verification of academic program in geology and geophysics, APEGGA's Board of Examiners has had to carry out its own review of programs for these professions. The general criteria has been based on a four-year degree program that adequately prepares a student for practice of the professions of geology or geophysics. To deal with applicants who may have no degree, or who have a three-year degree or a related degree, e.g., chemistry, physics, the Board of Examiners has continued to have an up-to-date syllabus of examinations in geology and geophysics. This syllabus is used by the academic examiners as the initial basis of comparison of the applicant's academic qualifications. If an applicant's academic preparation is not equivalent to this syllabus, then the Board may initially assign one or more technical examinations to verify knowledge of apparent academic weakness.
However, the review process does not end there (unless the applicant is a very recent graduate). The next review step looks at the experience of the applicant. Information on experience is provided to examiners through the applicant's own account, and by supervisors and/or references named by the applicant. Those named are contacted independently by APEGGA staff. There are three levels of experience review. In the first level, an experience examiner simply looks at the question of whether the experience meets the narrow requirement of at least 2 years of satisfactory experience in the practice of geology or geophysics subsequent to university graduation in geology or geophysics. At the next level of review, the examiner looks at the experience of an applicant who has been assigned one or more technical examinations. The objective at this level is to determine whether or not there are grounds for making a recommendation for the setting aside of some or all of those examinations which would be required, based solely on the academic assessment. If an experience examiner (each of whom are involved in some aspect of the industry as a geologist and/or a geophysicist) does make such a recommendation, it is considered by The Experience Committee under a variety of criteria at their bimonthly meetings. If the consensus of this group (this is the third level of review) is that there are good reasons for a recommendation that the examinations be reduced or waived altogether, a recommendation is made to the Executive Committee of the Board of Examiners who have the final authority to make decisions on registration.
All of the reviews and decision making for applications of this type are done by volunteer members of APEGGA who are appointed to the Board of Examiners by the Council of the APEGGA. In the event that an applicant disagrees with the Board's decision, a process of reconsideration by the Board's Executive Committee is available to applicants. There is a further opportunity of appeal of the decisions of the Executive Committee. An appeal may be made to the Full Board, which meets at least semi-annually to consider matters of policy and any such appeals that may occur. The accompanying flow-chart (Fig. 1) is more detailed than the usual one included in the APEGGA application kit.
In addition to checking out the academic and experience qualifications of each applicant the Board looks at three other criteria for registration. These are:
- Character - the same references used to verify experience are used to judge character.
- Communication ability in the English language - comments from references and/or results of standardized tests are considered.
- Professional Practice Examination - all applicants must complete APEGGA's Professional Practice Examination, unless they have already completed an equivalent examination for another Canadian Association.
In the view of the Liaison Committee, the process appeared to be thorough and effective, although not well publicized or understood by potential applicants or current members. The registration process has been presented to various outside agencies, such as the Alberta Human Rights Commission, and the Alberta Government Task Force on the Recognition of Foreign Qualifications. In addition, there is a public member appointed by the Alberta Government on the Board of Examiners, and the Board has recently carried out an internal review of its methods and processes.