The Early Days

An overview of the formative years of ASET

01, May, 2014

Technical education in Alberta began in Calgary in 1916 when the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (PITA) was opened with seven instructors and eleven students. In the early years only a very few employers knew of the capabilities of PITA graduates. Many employers did not recognize the special training of the PITA graduates and their potential.

By the late 1950's industry had started to realize that while there was apparently a shortage of engineers, the real problem was that too many of the engineers were "under-employed". This meant that they were doing the necessary work but were not fully utilizing their capabilities. The best solution to this problem seemed to be the specialized training of people who could contend with the specific but vital details of more routine engineering related work.

In the early 1960's, in answer to the needs for trained manpower, the Alberta government started to invest a great deal of money into technical educational facilities. In 1962 the PITA designation was changed to Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and by 1963 a twin institute was opened in Edmonton which became the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

At a meeting of Council of the Association of Professional Engineers of Alberta (APEA), held April 6, 1961, a Special Committee on Technicians was established to investigate and report on matters relating to Engineering, Geological and Geophysical technicians. The members of this Special Committee included:

  • HL Morrison, P.Eng. (Chairman)
  • VE McCune, P.Eng.
  • WA Smith, P.Eng., and
  • HA Gorrell, P.Geol.

Over the next two years a number of other people were added to the committee as the workload increased.

During the remainder of 1961, and part of 1962, a study was conducted to ascertain what other Engineering Associations and other groups were doing for technicians. A questionnaire was sent out by APEA in April 1962, to selected members of the Association in an effort to obtain statistical information of the numbers, fields, education and experience of technicians in the province. The first major report of the committee was presented to the APEA Council on March 29, 1962. As a result, the committee was authorized to proceed with plans for the establishment of a separate Technicians Society and a certification program based upon such societies and programmes which were already established in other provinces. Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia already had provincial Societies established.

It was necessary to establish a number of basic principles for the soon-to-be-formed Society. Therefore APEA and the founding members agreed that:

  • Because of the licensing aspect of the Association, any technicians organization should be a completely separate voluntary body.
  • The Association should assist in this organization and, in the early stages at least, retain some degree of control over it.
  • Any certification program should be controlled by the Association.
  • Ultimately the Technicians Society should be financially independent but initially the Association should bear part of the cost.
  • All functions of the Society other than the certification program should be controlled by members of the Society.
  • Organization and certification procedures should be similar to those in other provinces in order to facilitate the formation of a national body if so required at a later date.

Based on the above principles, a Constitution and Bylaws for the Alberta Society of Engineering Technicians was prepared, which included reference to the following:

  1. The Society cannot engage in collective barganing of any sort.
  2. Membership in the Society is only open to Technicians receiving a certification from the Certification Board.
  3. Membership in the Society is limited to Canadian citizens, British subjects or landed immigrants residing in Alberta.
  4. Persons who are eligible for membership in the Association are excluded from membership in the Society.
  5. The affairs of the Society are to be managed by a 12-member Council. Three members of this Council are to be members of this Association appointed by the Council of the Association.
  6. Provisions for election of Council members and for the holding of meetings are patterned after those of the Association.
  7. The day-to-day affairs of the Society are to be handled by the Registrar who will have duties similar to those of the Association Registrar.
  8. Operations of the Society will be financed through annual fees and by special admission and reclassification fees.
  9. The Constitution and Bylaws of the Society may not be altered without the approval of the Association.
  10. The Society's Bylaws establish 4 grades of technicians and technologists but the qualifications for these grades are left up to the Certification Board.
  11. Generally, the operation of the Society is defined in the Bylaws while the details of certification standards are left flexible.
  12. 'Technician' is only loosely defined and the technologies embraced by the Society may be changed by the Certification Board which will control admission.

Initially a Grandfather clause was provided so that certain difficulties in ascertaining education levels could be overcome. Grandfathering also gave ASET a larger initial membership. Those who lacked the required schooling could be certified at the Technician level based on experience. The credit given for experience was decreased every year and in 1970 the grandfather clause was eliminated.

The APEA Special Committee on Technicians appointed the following as the founding members of ASET:

  • JP Baker
  • EW Carter
  • PR Collings
  • WG Duke
  • WE Halverson
  • NS Henderson
  • GD Hulbert
  • RR Henson
  • VR Monson
  • SN Simons
  • DN Thorogood
  • AH Whyte

On August 1, 1963, the Society was incorporated and registered under the Societies Act of the Province of Alberta under the name of the Alberta Society of Engineering Technicians. The Council of APEA then appointed three advisory members to ASET's Council, they were:

  • HL Morrison, P.Eng.
  • HA Gorrell, P.Geol.
  • WA Smith, P.Eng.

They also appointed the Certification Board and two Panels of Examiners, one at SAIT and one at NAIT. A Code of Ethics was written, which has subsequently been updated.

The Special Committee decided that the initial fees for the Society should be as follows:

  • Admission fee: $15.
  • Annual fee 1963: $4.
  • Annual fee 1964: $10.

The first annual meeting of ASET was held in Edmonton at NAIT on February 8, 1964. At this meeting regional Chapters were formed, with Edmonton and Calgary being the first established. APEA continued to supply administrative and financial help to ASET, but the goal was to become an autonomous entity. The financial and administrative ties were gradually severed until full autonomy was achieved in 1976.

June 8, 1966, was an important date in the history of ASET. It was on this day that The Alberta Society of Engineering Technicians became The Alberta Society of Engineering Technologists. It was also in this year that President VR Monson, C.E.T., announced that ASET had been successful in obtaining exclusive use in Alberta of the letters patent C.E.T. for Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists.

For most of its early life ASET was tied closely to APEA, thus it was a very important step when ASET opened its own office and became financially independent. Another important step towards independence came when WF Newson, C.E.T., became the first non-engineer Registrar of ASET, replacing AC Milroy, P.Eng.

Today ASET members take it for granted that their annual dues can be deducted for income tax purposes, but this was not always so. In fact it was not until 1971 that members could deduct their dues, thanks to the efforts of the ASET Council and the Canadian Government.

In 1976 dual certification was introduced. If a member met certain criteria he could be certified in two separate disciplines. This was useful to some members practicing in related areas.

Throughout the 1970's the following was a commonly published statement in ASET publications. By today's standards this might be thought to be a bit sentimental, yet it still has a message for society today:

"Tomorrow is forever, and the members of ASET are dedicated to making forever full of better tomorrows. Trained to translate invention into the dimension of the practical, Technologists are equal partners in the engineering team. It's a team that has developed effective air pollution controls that are giving the skies back to the birds, giving pure air back to the people. They are the doing people! Engineering Technologists know that they must be one step ahead of the technological revolution. That's why they demand rigid technical training for their members and proper provincial certification. Engineering Technologists change dreams into realities—the kind of realities that will insure a forever."

Adapted from "ASET 1963-1988: The First 25 Years"
George Audley, C.E.T., edited by Karolina Hajnal