PEO’s PEAK continuing development program designed to help Ontario engineers maintain and enhance their professional credentials.
Starting March 31, all 80,000 of Ontario’s licence-holding engineers will be asked to participate in Professional Engineers Ontario’s (PEO) new Practice Evaluation and Knowledge (PEAK) program when their licences come up for annual renewal. The provincial self-regulatory agency says the voluntary program will help PEO create a snapshot of each of its members and gauge their ongoing professional development activities.
Under the program, practising licence holders will have the option of completing a practice evaluation questionnaire and an online ethics module prior to their licence renewal date. Based on the questionnaire’s results, PEO will then recommend the number of hours of professional knowledge per year for practicing engineers to pursue to maintain a level of knowledge commensurate with safeguarding the public interest.
In subsequent years, engineers will be asked to report their continuing development activities to PEO prior to their renewal date. Self-identified, non-practising licence holders will only be asked to complete an online ethics module prior to licence renewal.
While the PEAK program isn’t mandatory, PEO says engineers who do participate will have the completion status for each program element publicly noted on PEO’s online directory of practitioners. The online module is intended to serve as a refresher on professionalism and ethics.
According to PEO Registrar Gerard McDonald, Ontario’s engineering regulatory body is unlike nearly all other provincial agencies like the PEO in that it doesn’t require its members to participate in a continuing professional development (CPD) program. In the formulation of PEAK, McDonald says the PEO was wary of mandatory CPD programs, as has been tried by PEO unsuccessfully in the past.
For one, he says, PEO was loathe to foist on its members a one-size-fits-all, “window dressing” solution – one that would require all Ontario engineers, regardless of discipline or specialty, to attend generic classes or PEO constructed “seminars.” Instead, the agency says engineers can design their own CPD plan by choosing activities (e.g. university/college courses, technical journals, technical seminars, etc.) specific their area of practice.
“We’re not going to tell engineers what to take,” McDonald says. “You take what is best for your practice because what I do and the what the engineer sitting next to me does as a practitioner could be very different. So these programs have to be self-designed. We want the practitioner, at least once a year, to sit down and think about their practice and what they might need to keep themselves current.”
Being optional, PEAK is similar to the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia’s CPD program. However, it does go one step further in that, instead of simply check-marking whether members engaged in any professional development, PEO’s online registry of practicing engineers will explicitly list the activities its engineers participated in during the year…or lack thereof.
“Instead of saying to our members, ‘You have to do this,’ PEAK game-ifies the process,” McDonald says. “If someone looks up your competitor on our system and it says he’s done all his CPD and your listing says you haven’t, which engineer do you think he wants to hire?”
“I think what we’re most proud of is the uniqueness of our program,” he adds. “Our program collects data on the profession, which helps us as a regulator, but also gives the practitioner as much flexibility as possible. We do believe that the greater majority of our members, given the jobs they’re in, are probably doing professional development anyway. They’re going to tradeshows, reading technical journals, mentoring or presenting at conferences. Our program gives those members an opportunity to show the public and the community that work and dedication.”