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Associations, Technology

OACETT’s new CEO: COVID-19 provides an opportunity to use digital tools

Angela Gismondi
OACETT’s new CEO: COVID-19 provides an opportunity to use digital tools

In her new role, Cheryl Farrow, CEO of the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT), is focusing on supporting members through the COVID-19 pandemic and adapting to use more digital tools to expand the association’s reach across the province.

“Like every organization on the planet, OACETT was impacted by COVID-19 but not as dramatically as some other organizations have been because you need to remain a member to retain your designation,” she explained, adding if anything people are actually looking for a designation due to the uncertain job climate.

“A couple of the innovations that have been really positive for the association is the introduction of far more online continuous professional development programming than the association has ever been able to offer before.”

“It was acknowledged that this is a way of engaging with our members, but it has been so well received that we are now going to be looking at this as a permanent part of our service offerings for members going forward.”

OACETT, a non-profit, self-governing professional association of over 25,000 members, is Ontario’s independent certifying body for engineering and applied science technicians and technologists and confers the designations C.Tech. (Certified Technician) and C.E.T. (Certified Engineering Technologist).

Farrow is a certified association executive through the Canadian Society of Association Executives. She holds an MBA from the Rotman School of Business at U of T. Prior to OACETT, she was at the Canadian Bar Association in Ottawa.

Farrow started her new position in September.

“From my perspective it’s the pivotal role between the board of directors and staff,” said Farrow. “I’m responsible for working with the board of directors so they’ve got a vision for where they want to take the association. My responsibility is then to mobilize staff and the resources in terms of how we get there.

“The association does have a really solid strategic plan in place. It was established in 2019. There is an expectation that I will deliver on that plan.”

In her first month on the job, she made it a priority to meet with staff, council members and chapter chairs either in person or virtually.

“I had indicated to my board that my first 30 days were going to be all about information gathering so I had one-on-one interviews with each of my staff members, 21 members of our council and 26 of our 28 and chapter chairs,” said Farrow.

“That has really been a dual opportunity for me to understand the association and the profession, understand its strengths and understand where we might be wanting to move the association. I’m in the process of reporting back phase to the staff and the council and the chapters on what did I hear and what do I plan to do about it.”

In terms of association strengths, she said the certifications are well respected by employers. 

“The other strength is the number of members…25,000 members is an extremely strong membership for a provincial level association,” said Farrow.

“We have such a strong voice for the profession. It’s united in that professionalism but it has a lot of diversity in it because we actually certify 16 different disciplines.”

One of OACETT’s priorities is redoubling its relationship with colleges, as engineering technician and technologist programs are, for the most part, offered by colleges.

Another priority is to increase diversity and attract more females into careers in applied science and technologies. For the first time since its inception in 1962, the top three leadership positions at OACETT, including the CEO, president and president-elect, are held by women.

“Our membership is nine per cent female we are targeting to get it up to 15 per cent,” Farrow noted. “We have actually established a Women in Technology working group to help us identify strategies for attracting young women from as young as high school into the science, technology, engineering and math streams.

“We have a specific target of ensuring our leadership, the governance within the association, is comprised of 30 per cent women because we think that builds the role models and the way for young women to see themselves in the association if they are considering it for membership.”

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.


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