I enjoyed your article on the use of the term engineer in Canada (“Who are you calling an engineer?”, Feb. 22). Having worked in the IT industry years before becoming an engineer I can understand the confusion about the title of engineer. There are a lot of people in the IT industry who do not realize that they are not entitled to use that term. Many of these certification programs perpetuated this problem, as you have indicated, by referring to their graduates as ‘engineers’. As a result I was unaware of the legal restrictions on the use of the term ‘engineer’ when I set myself on the path to become an engineer. I was also not aware that the four years it takes to obtain an engineering degree are not enough to call yourself an engineer. Currently each university graduate requires four years of work experience with clear application of theory under the guidance of professional engineers before they are eligible to be licensed. That makes a total of eight years of training before one can obtain a license and use the term engineer.
It should be noted that (in Ontario,) the provincial government is the creator of these laws and the function of these laws is to protect the public. The associations are only tasked with the enforcing of these laws and regulating the activities of the members of the association. If an engineer does not take proper care when performing his or her duties their license can be suspended or revoked. The engineer is directly answerable for the results of his or her work. Therefore, when someone deals with an engineer they have a peace of mind knowing that the engineer is putting his or her livelihood on the line each time they seal a design.
In the U.S., this kind of restriction does not exist. The general attitude of the government there is buyer beware. Consequently, anyone who is drawing breath can call themselves engineers and as such the term ‘engineer’ just does not have the same meaning that it does in Canada. I personally have done a great deal of work in the U.S. since my graduation from university. It is very obvious the difference between an engineer that is licensed and everyone else calling themselves engineers. It can be very frustrating dealing with someone who does not understand and have the accountability that a licensed engineer has.
This is not, by any means, directed at the IT community. These laws have been in place for quite some time now and have established strong case precedence. This is merely part of the association’s job in protecting the public as spelled out in the laws for each of the provinces and territories in Canada.
Joseph J. Place, P.Eng.
Project Manager, Systems Engineering
APEGGA letter beyond belief
You really should try the dictionary before you go asking people with vested and not always entirely declared interests for definitions of common English words. Although your most recent article isn’t entirely leaning in the sole direction of supporting the APEGGA et al, it’s very much slanted in that direction and not a very good piece of balanced journalism.
“Engineer” is not a protected proper name, even when used in a job description, just because some association says so. A simple search on www.google.ca would have shown you over 190,000 results for the phrase “systems engineer”, and nearly double that for “software engineer”. Even the freely available dictionaries on the Internet should make this abundantly clear.
If APEGGA would like to protect a particular title as an official professional designation, such as “Professional Engineer(TM)”, then they may do so under the various acts and laws of the jurisdictions where they operate, but they do not have, and never will have, a monopoly on the common noun “engineer”. Our language evolves continually and we will continue to find new ways to use the word “engineer” – its application in the computing discipline is only one such way. Sending a stupid cease and desist letter to some innocent company attempting to hire someone to do some form of engineering is nearly beyond belief!
What target is next in APEGGA’s sights? Will they take on one of their more famous and widely published colleagues? Henry Petroski says that we are all engineers of one kind or another and that engineering is a fundamental endeavour of all humans.
Greg A. Woods
Senior Partner, Planix, Inc.