INNOVATION May-June 2015

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Competencies and Indicators Developed for Geotechnical Engineering Practice

The Geotechnical Engineering Task Force was formed by the APEGBC Registration Committee to explore whether geotechnical engineering should become a distinct discipline for professional registration. The task force recently developed indicators and competencies for geotechnical engineering in BC. To evaluate whether geotechnical engineering should be considered a singular discipline for registration or a specialist designation, a definition for geotechnical engineering was developed following a robust review of definitions from other jurisdictions as well as feedback from the membership. The task force also investigated the need and desire for a distinct specialist designation for geotechnical engineers. Much like designated structural engineers (Struct.Eng.), geotechnical engineering satisfies the same rationale as structural engineering in requiring unique experience based on a foundation with specific university education— a rationale that had led to structural engineers having a distinct designation from civil engineers. However, unlike structural engineering, there is currently no Canadian undergraduate degree program in geotechnical engineering. This led to the question of whether geotechnical engineers would be expected to have a postgraduate degree to achieve registration as a geotechnical engineer. The task force determined a) that geotechnical engineering should not be a distinct category for registration, such as Struct.Eng., and b) not to have it as a separate registration stream, separate to the civil engineering stream. As an extension of its work, the task force went on to develop a set of core competencies and indicators that define the specific knowledge and experience needed to fulfil the responsibilities of a geotechnical engineer. The task force developed 10 core competencies and indicators for geotechnical engineering in BC. These were reviewed by a panel of leading practitioners and academics in the fields of soil/rock mechanics, applied geological sciences and geomorphol- ogy, as well as regional practitioners, to achieve a cross section of perspectives. The draft document was thus refined and then distributed via survey to more than 300 of BC’s practicing geotechnical engineers and geoscientists. This feedback was incorporated to develop a robust list of geotechnical engineering competencies and indicators. The geotechnical engineering competencies and indicators document provides a best practice approach to geotechnical engineering. It is intended to help new registrants determine if they have suitable experience to register as an engineer practicing in the field of geotechnical engineering in BC, and to aid APEGBC and its members to assess if they are undertaking work that would be defined as geotechnical engineering. The competencies and indicators will be incorporated into a revised Geotechni- cal Engineering Services for Building Projects guideline. A modified version of the indicators will also be developed for use in APEGBC’s Competency Experience Reporting System to provide guidance to applicants for professional engineering registration who are working in the geotechnical engineering field. v


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