By: Gerard McDonald, Engineers Canada CEO
Like most organizations, 2020 threw Engineers Canada a curveball in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. But our staff and volunteers proved themselves to be resilient as we adopted a work-from-home posture, accomplishing a great deal despite the challenges faced last year.
As we turn the page and look ahead to 2021, there are a number of items that I’m especially looking forward to seeing advance this year. We’re entering into the last year of our current strategic plan, and are well along in developing a new strategic plan for 2022-2024. Slated for approval at our May 2021 Annual Meeting of Members, it includes several bold priorities and a new vision statement for Engineers Canada to guide our work.
Alongside that planning work, we continue to work on our existing strategic priorities and operational imperatives. Many involve our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it presents, such as forcing us to consider virtual alternatives to some of our regular activities. While this is undoubtedly a challenge, it’s also an opportunity for us to consider different approaches to our work, improve our processes, and try new things in the spirit of continuous improvement.
There are a few areas in particular that I’m excited to see come to fruition:
- Equity, diversity, and inclusion training
One of the intended outcomes under Operational Imperative 9 of our current strategic plan is to support engagement with Indigenous histories, increasing awareness and cultural competency, with the goal of helping Engineers Canada staff and leadership develop respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples. To this end, last year, Engineers Canada staff completed 4 Seasons of Reconciliation Training, an online Indigenous awareness course developed by First Nations University of Canada. In 2021, Engineers Canada will be rolling out this training to the Board, regulator CEOs, and members of the Accreditation Board and Qualifications Board. We’ll also be making the training available to the engineering regulators and to Engineering Deans Canada.
- National Engineering Month goes virtual
As we do every year, the engineering profession will celebrate National Engineering Month (NEM) in March 2021. For the first time, this year’s NEM activities will be entirely online. Though the celebrations will look different than the in-person events of years past, the goal remains the same: to spark an interest in the next generation of engineers and to celebrate the role that engineers play in society. In collaboration with the engineering regulators, we are developing a number of online activities that are designed to give children and youth the opportunity to learn about the many disciplines of engineering and where their skills and interests can fit in. These include an online engineering scavenger hunt, at-home engineering design challenges, and an online engineering game.
- Accreditation improvements and our first virtual accreditation visits
With the deferral of most Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) accreditation visits in the 2020/2021 cycle, the CEAB shifted its focus to priority work plan items, including work on virtual visits, student learning in the age of COVID-19, and consideration of how the 30 by 30 goal can be appropriately integrated into the accreditation process. Development of Tandem, our online data management system for accreditation, also continues throughout 2021.
- Going for gold! Continual improvement and Excellence Canada certification
Engineers Canada always strives to find ways to continuously improve its planning, processes, and services. For the past number of years, we’ve been guided in our work to do so by the Excellence Canada framework, and have achieved silver-level certification. This year, we’re going for gold certification, which has inspired many ideas for continual improvement. This includes the development of a volunteer management strategy, client service improvements, a re-evaluation of our performance management system for staff, the development of a new corporate social responsibility strategy for the organization, and assessing and implementing post-pandemic workplace adjustments.
This work—along with other priorities such as the completion of the competency-based assessment project, development work for the new National Membership Database (NMDB), completing improvements to the International Institutions and Degrees Database (IIDD), and a fully virtual Hill Day with parliamentarians and public servants—means that 2021 promises to be another busy and productive year for Engineers Canada.