As I sit in the planning sessions for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Utility Engineering & Surveying Institute (UESI) Pipelines 2021 Conference, I reflect on the last two years that the Canadian chapters have been active.
Early in 2017, I was sitting with Jim Anspach PG (r), Dist.M.ASCE, the incoming president of our fledgling institute and I asked what would it take to get a UESI chapter up in Canada? An idea was born and I was on a mission to get a Canadian chapter ready and active for the upcoming 2018 Toronto ASCE UESI Pipelines conference. From that point on, it was full speed ahead to have our initial Canadian chapter for the conference.
By engaging the utility community and with great support from my employer T2 Utility Engineers, a founding organizational member of UESI, and of course assistance from my mentors Jim Anspach and Lawrence Arcand P.Eng, P.E., president (at the time) of T2 Utility Engineers. We started a grassroots community engagement putting out the call to all in the utility engineering community to come together and found our first Canadian chapter. The response was immediate and clear; Canadians wanted to be a key part of UESI and have a strong voice in the utility engineering community. We gathered the right support and at UESI Pipelines 2018 we signed the MOU between the Michigan chapter and the Ontario GTA UESI Chapter, and we were off and running.
Building on this momentum, in March 2019 we started discussing forming the first Canadian west chapter (Alberta and British Columbia) after conducting a few meetings and a successful full day seminar on utility engineering. The chapter formed April 5, 2019 with the help of Jason Lueke, current UESI Pipelines Division EXCOM vice chair and co-chair of the UESI Pipelines 2021 Conference; John Segna, past UESI director; and Diane Swecker, current UESI director who connected us with the Region 8 leadership who signed off on our West chapter formation. The two Canadian chapters have been very active and partnering with other organization to provide utility engineering education and networking.
During this past year, the landscape of conferences and technical societies in North America has changed significantly. COVID-19 has made many in-person meetings and conferences not feasible – and many have been postponed or cancelled altogether. The need for continuing education and opportunities for networking with our peers remains an essential aspect of our business and professional development. Many technical societies including NASTT, the Centre for Advancement of Trenchless Technologies (CATT), and ASCE UESI have sustained their membership by offering online webinars, courses and conferences. While the delivery platform is different, the opportunity for engagement and learning remains. It is essential that all of us in the industry not only embrace these opportunities but become involved and actively participate in these organizations.
Virtual and remote conferences and webinar offerings are not the same as the traditional programing experiences we have had in the past. We need to keep mindful that more purposeful engagement is required with our clients, peers and young professionals if we want to continue to grow our industry. Perhaps the greatest challenge will be to ensure that the younger members of our associations are engaged, and it is incumbent on all of us to take on the responsibility of ensuring these members get the opportunity to participate and learn. This is where our organizations have the greatest opportunity to influence and develop our future industry leaders.
The fact that we are still planning and looking forward to hosting the UESI Pipelines 2021 Conference in Calgary is a testament on how engaged we are about UESI and its success in Canada. The Conference Steering Committee is planning for an in-person conference. We will closely monitor the pandemic and adapt to the situation as required to continue to deliver a high-quality experience and educational opportunity to all participants. There is no better time than now to get involved and sustain our utility infrastructure technical societies and organizations.
Ophir Wainer is director of business development for Canada at T2 Utility Engineers. He is also the co-founder of UESI’s Canadian chapters and the local chapter coordinator for the UESI Pipelines 2021 Conference. Those interested in getting involved with the Canadian chapters can email Wainer at firstname.lastname@example.org.