Where it all began: the FMC-APEGM origins
By Ethel Clemente Fernandez
Summer 2009. First members meeting. L-r: Roman Nepomuceno, Rodolfo Soriano, Marolo Alfaro, Valentin Abella, Ramon Cairo, Arnel Oberez and William Lopez
February 2010. First general meeting held at EITC, University of Manitoba
L-r: Grant Koropatnick, Roman Nepomuceno, Edwin Sapnu, Ramon Cairo, Bill Girling, Rodolfo Soriano, Valentin Abella, Arnel Oberez and Marolo Alfaro
Great things come in small packages, but for the Filipino Members Chapter of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba (FMC-APEGM), it came in small talks.
Some time in early 2009, Valentin Abella, Marolo Alfaro and Ramon Cairo were talking about the challenges that Filipino engineering professionals face in order to practice engineering in Manitoba and in Canada. In particular, the challenge of satisfying the academic requirements set by the APEGM.
In 2003, the government-funded Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification (IEEQ) program was created. IEEQ program is a pathway for internationally educated engineers to meet academic requirements for professional engineering practice in Manitoba. The program first accepted about 20, and later, 40 students per year. Philippine-educated engineering professionals were not qualified for admission for the first few years of the program because only those who were assessed by the APEGM with five or fewer confirmatory exams were eligible. Most, at the time, were assessed with nine to 11 confirmatory exams.
Marolo Alfaro, an engineering professor at the University of Manitoba (U of M) had a conversation with Ron Britton, IEEQ program founder and also an engineering professor at the U of M. The conversation focused on the opportunities for admission of Philippine-educated engineering professionals to the IEEQ program. It was from this small talk that Dr. Britton suggested to form a group and meet with the APEGM council to discuss potential opportunities of Philippine-educated engineering professionals to obtain professional recognition.
When Ramon and Valentin completed their studies at the U of M and subsequently became professional engineers, it was decided to form a group of Filipino professional engineers and geoscientists and pursue a working relationship with the APEGM. Dr. Alfaro consulted three former presidents of the APEGM about the plan and they thought it was a great idea. He then contacted Grant Koropatnick, Executive Director of the APEGM, to propose the formation of a group of Philippine-educated engineers and geoscientists.
In June 2009, at the APEGM’s invitation, Dr. Alfaro proposed the group and its missions to council. Ramon, Roman and Arnel were also in attendance. There were several interesting questions after the presentation. The APEGM legal counsel recommended a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the APEGM and the group. In the beginning it looked like a rather straightforward MOU, but it ended up generating an extensive debate among members of the council. There were several issues that were raised and one of them was the concern of associating APEGM with a group comprising of a single ethnic background. In the end, the APEGM Council eventually put their trust in the group. It was a two-year process from planning in 2009 to launching the Filipino Members Chapter of APEGM in 2011 – making it the first ethnic-based chapter of the APEGM.
There were originally eight members: Val Abella, Marolo Alfaro, Ramon Cairo, William Lopez, Roman Nepomuceno, Arnel Oberez, Edwin Sapnu, and Rod Soriano. At the time, Val, Ramon and Marolo were professional engineers (PEng’s) and the rest were engineers in training (EIT’s).
The chapter evolved from few members who were interested in helping Philippine-educated engineering professionals succeed in facing the challenges of practicing the engineering profession in Manitoba, to a chapter whose current members are now leading the realization of its missions. The membership has since included those whose engineering degrees are from the accredited engineering programs in Canada and who have Filipino descent. With the success of the FMC-APEGM, professional engineers and geoscientists from a single cultural background have formed or have begun forming their own respective chapters. There is also a lot of interest to form chapters of this kind in other jurisdictions across Canada.
To Dr. Alfaro, the following accomplishments were deemed the most important to date:
1. The formation of a group that is closely affiliated with the APEGM. It is important to have a better working relationship with the professional regulatory body for engineers and geoscientists. This is a great opportunity for the chapter to support and assist the APEGM in matters of engineering and geoscience regulation and professional practice.
2. A chapter whose members are interested and motivated to help others obtain their professional registrations, particularly those who are Philippine-educated engineering and geoscience professionals. In addition, a chapter whose members are actively participating in the activities that include mentorship, networking, professional development, outreach programs, professional and community services, etc.
3. A chapter whose members are becoming reliable contact persons for those who seek information on how to obtain professional engineer and geoscientist registration in Manitoba. This is essential for new immigrants who need valuable advice from professionals who have similar experience, the same cultural background and, in most cases, the same academic background.
As of this writing, the FMC-APEGM has over 150 members including full, student and lay members.
And for these more than 150 members, Dr. Alfaro, one of the founding members, has this message:
We congratulate all members who contributed to the success of the FMC-APEGM. They have dedicated themselves to make the chapter what it is today. The success of any organization depends mainly on its mission and its members. The FMC-APEGM will continue to be successful because it has a noble mission and dedicated members. We hope that the chapter will serve as a forum for the members to give back to the profession and to society, bringing honour to the Filipino community.
We want Philippine-educated engineering and geoscience professionals to know about the existence of our chapter. They can seek advice from chapter members about how they face the challenges of obtaining their professional registration.
(Writing and photo credits: Marolo Alfaro, P.Eng., PhD with contributions from Ramon Cairo, P.Eng.)
Ethel Clemente Fernandez is a registered member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba (APEGM). She currently works for a federal crown corporation and is serving on the Executive Committee of the Filipino Members Chapter (FMC) - APEGM. For inquiries, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.