By Bruce G. Matthews, P.Eng.
Special to Ontario Construction Report
At its Annual General Meeting on Sept. 15, the member firms of Consulting Engineers of Ontario (CEO) confirmed a name change for the association to the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Ontario (ACEC-Ontario).
Originally established in 1975, the association is the advocacy and member service organization for private-sector companies that offer independent engineering, geoscientific or other technology-based services. ACEC-Ontario’s membership in 2020 included 150 firms employing over 22,000 people in Ontario.
The name change was motivated by a new 2020-2023 Strategic Plan adopted by the Board of Directors in March of this year. A key priority area in the plan is to “strengthen our identity and branding”, and included selecting a new name and branding as a specific objective. It was recognized that both the consulting engineering sector and the association itself had evolved over the span of 45 years.
Acquisitions and consolidation had a major impact on the industry during the past 20 years or so. There are fewer firms overall, but the size of the sector has grown. Similarly, the business environment for consulting engineering had changed and matured during that time, and the association had made strategic and operational decisions to focus on the business interests of engineering firms in Ontario.
With these evolutions and changes, it became apparent that the old name was an impediment to the future success of the association. The old name inherently suggested a group of individuals, not companies.
This fostered confusion regarding CEO’s role versus the respective roles of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (the association representing individual engineers, engineering students and engineering graduates) and Professional Engineers Ontario (the engineering regulator that issues licenses and enforces the Professional Engineers Act).
We needed an identity and branding that would better differentiate us from those organizations and reflect our proper constituency. Further, the CEO name did not clearly identify us as an association. CEO was often mistaken by the pubic as a direct provider of consulting engineering services.
Research undertaken while developing the Strategic Plan showed that many of our member firms offer and provide technical services that are outside of what had been the traditional realm of the consulting engineer. Their work isn’t only about advising and design – it includes planning, analysis, test, evaluation, project management, contract administration and more, all predicated on engineering principles and executed from an engineering perspective. It was noted that our member firms employ a range of technical professionals, not just professional engineers.
We had previously determined that nearly half our member firms were not self-identifying as “consulting engineers”. This finding was consistent across firms of every size and area of practice. Instead, these firms would make reference to “engineering services”, “engineering solutions”, or reference engineering in association with a number of other service areas such as architecture or geoscience.
The board began examining the question of identity in December 2019 as the strategic plan was being developed. Conceptual-level discussions led to a list of 10 options. A key challenge in selecting a new name is to pick one that results in a satisfactory acronym and, given today’s technology and social media focus, for which an appropriate internet domain and social media handles would be available. The final selection was made by the Board at their March meeting and the choice of ACEC-Ontario was unanimous.
The new name better identifies us as an industry association representing engineering firms. It aligns our organization with the national-level association (ACEC-Canada) and the naming convention used by the vast majority of our provincial counterparts across Canada (e.g., ACEC-BC). This will convey unity, strength and consistency to our stakeholders. The new name and brand dovetail with the newly articulated mission and vision statements found in the new Strategic Plan:
OUR MISSION: To promote and advance the business interests of our Member Firms and the value of the engineering work they do.
OUR VISION: Our Member Firms prosper and are recognized for their influence and fundamental contributions to the social, environmental, and economic welfare of Ontario.
The new identity and branding will also foster growth for ACEC-Ontario. We expect more engineering firms will join and engage with us because their success will be enabled by our leadership in policy advocacy and risk management, and we provide access to key knowledge sharing networks and relevant support services.
The new ACEC-Ontario identity and branding changes will be introduced over the coming weeks through our website, social media channels and other communications. We can now be found at ACECOntario.ca.
Bruce G. Matthews is AECE-Ontario’s executive director