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Environment, sustainability top priorities for new ACEC-Canada chair

Angela Gismondi
Environment, sustainability top priorities for new ACEC-Canada chair

As the new chair of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC)-Canada, Allyson Desgroseilliers will focus on green infrastructure and how to incorporate more nature-based design into developments.

She was named chair at the association’s AGM Oct. 11 and will serve for a year. She is the second female chair in ACEC-Canada’s history.

“What’s important to me is environmental issues,” said Desgroseilliers, who is also vice-president of environmental management for earth and environment, Prairies and North at WSP in Winnipeg. “I’m a civil engineer but I practice environmental work and do environmental projects, making sure that our infrastructure is done in a sustainable way for the long-term and is not contributing to climate change but is mitigating climate change or built in a resilient way for the changes that we’re going to experience and for the changes in our community and in society. Those are the things I like to communicate about and when I am speaking to the membership.”

John Gamble, president and CEO of ACEC-Canada, said the association adopted a new strategic plan last June and Desgrosellier’s environmental focus aligns with that mission.  

Desgroseilliers has over 25 years of experience in the consulting engineering industry and has been involved in ACEC at the provincial and national levels. She started on the board of directors for ACEC-Manitoba where she served for six years.

A former supervisor encouraged her to participate in ACEC-Manitoba events and committees and she eventually joined the board and became chair.

“It started very early on in my career,” she said. “I went to some of their business events and was on the business practices committee…My supervisor, my boss, he was my boss for 25 years, said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come along? I think it would be good for your professional development and it would be a good experience for you.’ So I tagged along and from there I found my own way and made my own connections and networked with people and got what I could out of it.”

She has been an ACEC-Canada board member since October 2019. Most recently, she held the positions of treasurer and chair-elect.

Being part of the boards, she noted, allowed her to participate in industry discussions and learn from peers. It also allowed her to network and build relationships.

In addition to bringing industry leaders together during her term over the next year, Desgroseilliers plans to address the challenges the sector is facing, including finding ways to better access foreign-trained individuals to help fill labour shortages, understanding the implications and liabilities posed by AI and creating a stronger appreciation for how the engineering sector impacts the country’s GDP.

“Our industry is challenged to get new engineers and to keep them,” Desgroseilliers stated. “Within the consulting engineering industry there is a lot of work to be done and we need to keep our good people and build capacity and have capacity to deliver those projects.”

She added, “I think it’s important that our post-secondary educational institutions make sure that they are supplying the industry with engineering grads that have the skillset to join consulting and help build our future infrastructure.”

Over the next few months she plans to meet with member organizations across Canada and participate in a number of events nationally and provincially.

ACEC-Canada recognizes the importance of in-person events and meetings, said Gamble.

“One of the things we’ve really have valued post COVID is the opportunity to engage with the membership face to face,” said Gamble. “The remote environment is good for transactional discussions but to really understand where are the members challenges, where are the opportunities, a lot of that requires that true face-to-face time.”

In terms of changes in the industry, Desgrosilliers said she has seen more of a focus on diversity and inclusion.

“I know when I first started going to ACEC events I was one of the only women that was there and now it feels like we’ve reached 50-50,” she said. “Definitely the diversity within our boards and our committees has changed and evolved over time and that’s wonderful to see…We’re seeing a lot more women in leadership positions at engineering companies.

“There is definitely a focus on diversity and inclusion, not just gender diversity but all sorts of diversity, has been a focus that just wasn’t there, wasn’t talked about when I started my career.”

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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