Members comment on PEAK knowledge reporting program

PEO members’ initial experiences with the Practice Evaluation and Knowledge (PEAK) program have been largely positive, according to an informal survey taken by Engineering Dimensions.

Launched March 31, the PEAK program is designed to improve the regulatory profile of PEO licence holders and encourage individual members to pursue continuing knowledge development. PEAK was the main focus of the March/April 2017 issue of Engineering Dimensions.

As of August 23, 6580 PEO members have completed the PEAK questionnaire and have received a recommended number of hours of professional development and knowledge activities.

Only members who identify as practising engineers are given a recommended number of continuing knowledge activity hours to complete before their next licence renewal date. Those who self-identify as non-practising need only declare their status and complete an online ethics module.

Engineering Dimensions contacted a number of PEO members who recently completed the PEAK program. Respondents were asked their general impressions of the program and if they had any difficulties finding and reporting on continuing knowledge activities.

Charlotte Bond, P.Eng., a project engineer at WSP-Canada in Mississauga, was typical of the engineers contacted about PEAK. “It has taken no real effort to submit the continuing knowledge activities,” Bond said. “I have found that, after two months, I have almost a third of the hours I need without having to put in any additional effort to find continuing knowledge activities. The activities I have submitted I would have done with or without the PEAK program.”

It was recommended that Bond take 18 hours of professional knowledge activity. Among the activities she reported was a one-hour webinar and four hours of in-house training presented by her employer.

For Toronto-based engineer Tom Markowitz, P.Eng., chair of the West Toronto Chapter’s Environment Committee, the main difficulty with PEAK was determining if he is practising or non-practising.

“It was difficult for me, because I am semi-retired,” Markowitz said. “I decided that I am still practising because I still do work that applies engineering principles to protect the safety of the public, economic well-being and environmental quality.”

Markowitz, who was assigned 18 hours of PEAK activity, said the overall experience was simple and that the PEAK reporting system is well designed and straightforward.

Rupinder Mann, P.Eng., a software and research specialist with Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario, agreed that the PEAK experience was intuitive and self-defining.

“I’m glad my current position allows me to continue my work in software engineering,” Mann said. “Reporting my new knowledge activities is simply a matter of capturing more required details of the work that I already do. Additionally, the PEAK program provides motivation to learn something new.”

Mann, who was given a recommended 15 hours of knowledge activity, benefited from previous experience in knowledge reporting. “I am also a project management professional so I have to report professional development units (PDUs) to the Project Management Institute every year,” she added. “Another fortunate part was that I had already reported all the required PDUs for project management to the institute, but I am still learning more. Now, I can report these more engineering-related activities to PEO.”

Senior water resources engineer Jennifer Young, P.Eng., of Stantec Consulting in Waterloo, is registered with PEO and Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC).

Because BC already requires its members to track and report knowledge activity, Young had a head start on the PEAK effort.

“I need to track this for my APEGBC membership as well (80 hours, 50 of which are practice), so I already have a tracking system for myself,” Young said. “I also work in an emerging sector, so I have a lot of opportunities for learning or teaching.”

Young was given 17 hours of activity through PEAK, and fulfilled much of it by way of reporting on conferences, presentations, workshops and other informal information exchanges.

“My only complaint is that the reporting system for actually inputting your experience was not at all user-friendly,” Young added. “There was no way to move though it quickly and it was annoying and took a long time.”

PEAK’s website has a feedback reporting tool and members experiencing problems with input or sluggish operation are encouraged to report them back to PEAK officials.

A PEAK user registered with PEO, Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ) and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) is Anna Chan, P.Eng., group manager with HH Angus and Associates in Toronto.

Chan initially had concerns about the activity-reporting deadlines for the first cohort of PEAK users, but otherwise found the experience quite simple.

“It was relatively easy except for the original misunderstanding that I was in the first batch as my renewal date was June 1, but I later found out that the first batch would be those with renewal dates of June 30,” Chan said. “There were a few hiccups with my information on the PEO website as the reporting/due dates changed from the first time that I looked at it. I also requested the help desk to allow 0.5-hour increments as it originally only accepted full hours for the online reporting.”

Chan is another user to benefit from multiple registrations and the ability to have employer or professional association training credited towards PEAK requirements. “HH Angus provides internal company courses that would qualify, and I am also already reporting hours to APEGA, OIQ and CaGBC (LEED) that can be used for PEO,” Chan said.

Andrew Garland, P.Eng., is a principal and project engineer with B.M. Ross and Associates Ltd., a multi-service consulting firm based in Goderich, Ontario. He completed the PEAK questionnaire in the spring, and was assigned 19 hours of continuing knowledge activity.

As a member of an engineering consultancy, Garland had no trouble determining his practice status through PEAK, but a few of his semi-retired colleagues had questions. “For them, the answer to the practising versus non-practising question required some clarification, but at a PEO information session the answer was readily available,” Garland said.

He suggested the nature of consulting engineering work makes it somewhat easier for these engineers to undertake and report on professional knowledge activities. “Between encouragement our staff receive for continuing development, in-house training, and sessions we host with equipment suppliers, the [knowledge reporting] hours will be easily met in most typical years,” Garland said.

He also said several B.M. Ross corporate polices helped reduce the baseline number of hours required for PEAK. “We do host some internal workshops, and I attend professional association activities, that can be put toward continuing knowledge activity,” he added.

Garland said the rollout of the PEAK effort drew a fair amount of attention at B.M. Ross, and presumably at most consulting engineering firms in Ontario. “We have had a lot of internal discussion at our company regarding the PEAK program,” he said. “Generally the response is fairly neutral. The implementation of a program like this is not totally unexpected, nor will it fundamentally change what we already do in a year. The biggest area of concern/question has been verifying what type of activity would be considered acceptable for continuing knowledge, but I think over the past few months this has become more clear.”