In the second edition of our summer series, Behind the Scenes at Engineers Canada, we speak with Kyle Smith, Manager Regulatory Research and International Mobility.  

One of Engineers Canada’s ten core purposes is to actively monitor, research, and advise on changes and advances that impact the Canadian regulatory environment and the engineering profession. With technological advancements evolving faster than ever before, part of Smith’s role involves closely observing current and incoming trends as well as their potential impacts on engineering. These efforts help Engineers Canada provide information to regulators on long-term impacts on the profession, evaluate professional and ethical obligations, and help regulators educate engineers on incoming changes and trends. 

In this interview, Smith talks critical partnerships with international stakeholders, key steps in conducting regulatory research, emerging trends in engineering, and more.  

Q: Could you provide an overview of your role as the Manager, Regulatory Research and International Mobility? 

A: Just like the title, my role is split into two focus areas:  

First, I conduct research into and monitor the state of the professional regulatory environment with the aim of advancing the engineering profession in Canada. This largely involves keeping a watching brief on trends within other professions and changes to engineering regulation inside and outside of Canada. It also involves producing reports on topics of interest to Canada’s engineering regulators such as emerging, contemporary, and overlapping areas of practice.  

Secondly, I investigate and manage risks and opportunities associated with the mobility of engineering work and practice internationally. To date, this has mostly been an effort in gaining an understanding of admissions practices outside of Canada to spot differences from the Canadian framework. By identifying differences, flagging for regulators, and aligning where possible, we are hoping to reduce barriers to mobility without introducing additional risk for regulators.   

Q: How does regulatory research contribute to the advancement of engineering in Canada? 

A: The research is intended to provide regulators with useful information that can be drawn upon in carrying out their mandate to regulate the profession. Whether that’s sharing changes from the federal government that could impact application volumes (such as Canada’s recent Tech Talent Strategy), sharing updates in other regulated professions and their frameworks within Canada, capturing changes in engineering regulatory regimes internationally for inclusion in tools such as the International Institutions and Degrees Database (IIDD), or taking deep dives such as the research paper on energy engineering, my aim is to assist where I can.     

Q: What are the key steps involved in conducting regulatory research? Can you provide insights into the process of gathering and analyzing the regulatory landscape? 

A: With any research, we first consult regulators to identify topics of interest. Once a topic is selected, a small advisory group is created to guide the research of the assigned topic and provide valuable perspectives. Then, the research begins:  we scan the environment and review the literature for information, and I work with the advisory group to define the research problem and objectives, which are collected and presented in a general direction document. Regulators are then consulted on the general direction and provided an opportunity to give feedback. Once feedback is considered and shared with the advisory group and back to the regulators, a draft report is created and external input from subject matter experts is sought if necessary. We then consult regulators on the draft document to allow another opportunity for input. Their feedback is once again considered and implemented before the research is finalized and shared. 

Q: What are some key areas of focus for Engineers Canada under international mobility? How do you establish and maintain relationships with international stakeholders?  

A: Engineers Canada’s efforts in international affairs are focused on ensuring that we can achieve the maximum possible benefit for regulators through multilateral accords and agreements under the umbrella of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA).  

Under the IEA, we are a signatory to the Washington Accord, an agreement which recognizes the substantial equivalence of the accreditation processes in 22 other countries. This accord has helped Canadian regulators assess a portion of their international applicants and it helps Canadian graduates of Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB)-accredited programs who seek recognition overseas. 

We are also members of the International Professional Engineering Agreement (IPEA) and the APEC Engineering Agreement. These agreements set a benchmark for professional competence that is intended to facilitate the mobility of professionals. All parties to the agreements have been assessed and determined to have processes that ensure that registrants meet the benchmark standards. Each party then maintains a register of individuals who meet the benchmark and who have seven years of engineering work experience with two years in responsible charge of significant engineering works. This goes beyond the standard set for licensure in Canada, and so the assessment of applicants from other countries’ registers could be accelerated by Canadian engineering regulators. 

The IEA puts us in touch with over 40 organizations, and we maintain our relationships with them through an annual meeting, virtual workshops, and an online forum to further our collaboration and work to facilitate access to and the mobility of engineering talent world-wide. When needed, we also mentor those who wish to join the Washington Accord or the agreements and serve as visitors. And, of course, we maintain one-on-one relationships with individuals in these organizations – sharing our experiences and learning from theirs. 

Q: Can you share a significant project or initiative you have led or been involved with that had a notable impact on the regulatory landscape for Canadian engineers? What were the key outcomes or achievements? 

A: We’re currently in the middle of a major project to significantly improve the Engineers Canada Mobility Register, which is the means for eligible engineers licensed in Canada to benefit from the IEA agreements I mentioned above. We’ve experienced tremendous growth in the number of registrants in recent years (from 12 registrants in 2016 to over 500 as of writing), and by improving our policies, processes, and implementing a new online tool, we are expecting to strengthen our ability to manage the register efficiently and improve the user experience for those seeking registration.  

Q: What are some emerging trends or challenges you’ve come across that may impact the engineering profession in the coming years? 

A: Trends and challenges are constantly evolving. A couple of recent recurring items of note for me include: 

  • New technologies (such as AI) disrupting the nature of work and professional accountability. 
  • The ever-growing number of emerging fields of engineering practice 
  • Government-driven changes in professional regulation both domestically and internationally 

Q: How do you stay up-to-date with evolving policies, regulations, and industry trends in engineering on a global scale? 

A: It seems that information is everywhere these days. In addition to monitoring a series of newsfeeds covering topics of interest from engineering to regulatory frameworks to trade agreement negotiations, I also review newsletters and articles from sources such as the Canadian Network of Agencies for Regulation (CNAR), the Council on Licensure, Enforcement, and Regulation (CLEAR), the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Conference Board of Canada, Canadian Consulting Engineer, Engineers Europe (formerly FEANI), and the list goes on. Setting aside time at the beginning of each day has been pivotal in separating valuable information of value from noise – and even then, being able to efficiently flag issues when there are so many information sources remains a work in progress.