Claude Rollin, P.Eng., ing, niganombakonigewinini
When Claude Rollin drives around Ottawa—or Gatineau, Mont Laurier, or Caraquet, for that matter—he can look around and take pride in his life’s work.
“You name it, I’ve had a hand in most of the things that have been built in a large area for the last 40-some years,” the 63-year-old civil engineer says. “Now, I drive past buildings and I go, ‘I worked on this building, on that road.’ It’s a pretty neat feeling.”
And as the Civil Engineer at the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council (AANTC), Claude is still building the communities around him.
“A wide-ranging domain”
The AANTC provides assistance and services to seven Algonquin communities in Quebec—Abitibiwinni, Eagle Village, Kitcisakik, Kitigan Zibi, Lac Simon, Long Point and Timiskaming.
As AANTC’s Civil Engineer, Claude is the technical advisor to these communities on their engineering projects.
“It could be garbage, it could be water, sewers, street construction and repairs,” he explains. “It could be dealing with the relations with the next door municipality from which they buy services or it could be dealing with the provincial government. It could be new buildings, it could be all kinds of things. It’s a wide-ranging domain.”
For example, of the projects that he’s working on right now, there are three water infrastructure projects and the construction of a covered rink in Kitigan Zibi; there’s a five-year capital plan, zoning bylaws and the extension of water and sewer services in Lac Simon; there’s a wastewater treatment plant underway in Eagle Village; and the extension of the health centre building in the Timiskaming First Nation, the upgrading of their drinking water system plant, and the planning of a new development project for 100 building lots.
And it’s this variety that Claude likes most about his job.
“When you start your day, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to be doing all day.”
In fact, with the Algonquin communities in Quebec, sometimes he doesn’t even know what language he’ll be speaking. Some of the communities operate in French, others in English.
It’s this variety of projects—and languages—that keeps Claude on his feet, making sure he never gets bored.
Advice for young engineers: “Make your brain work”
Claude enrolled in the civil engineering program at the University of Ottawa in 1970.
“Back in the day, Ottawa U had civil engineering, chemical, mechanical and electrical,” he recalls. “And a computer about as strong as my laptop took up a whole floor in a building and four attendants. So you didn’t have as many choices back then as you do today.”
He picked the engineering discipline that he thought would be most like construction, the industry in which his father worked and in which Claude worked as a labourer during the summers when he was in university.
His first job after graduating was working on the construction of Phase III of Place du Portage in Gatineau, Que., a set of government buildings just on the other side of the Ottawa River. From there, he worked for a geotechnical firm, moved to Caraquet, N.B. for a few years, then to Mont-Laurier, Que., where he again worked for that same geotechnical firm. After they closed up shop, Claude started and ran his own company for eight years, before taking on his current position with the AANTC in 2004.
Reflecting on how engineering has changed since he first started his career, Claude says that he finds that the profession today is sometimes missing some common sense.
“When I was in university and at the first jobs I had, we were using slide-rules and pencil and paper,” he says. “You had to know that the answer you came up with was in the proper ball-park.
“Nowadays, you plug in numbers into the computer and you start believing that the answer you get is gospel. But if you rely too much on a computer, then you lose that common sense and the feel for what’s right and what’s wrong.”
His advice for young engineers?
“Imagine that your computer just failed. What are you going to do? Make your brain work.”
That way, he says, engineers will have the confidence and the skill-set to reliably construct the world around them.
And the other piece of the puzzle?
“Find a job you love and do it well,” Claude recommends, because he certainly has.
“Engineering is my whole life. It’s going to be 42 years that I’ve worked, and I’ve always worked at this job of being an engineer. I don’t think I could do anything else.”
“If you didn’t have engineering, you wouldn’t have bridges, railways or roads. No dams, no electricity, no telephone. You wouldn’t have aircraft or airports. You wouldn’t have rockets. We wouldn’t have gone to the moon. In fact, we’d still be walking.”
–Claude Rollin, P.Eng., ing., niganombakonigewinini
Civil engineers build our physical world—from roads to buildings, to bridges and tunnels, to airports and subway systems, to water and sewage systems. They participate in large construction projects, and may specialize in foundation analysis, building and structural inspection, surveying, geomatics and municipal planning.
Civil engineers will confer with clients and other members of a project team to determine project requirements. They will consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards and other risk factors in planning the design and construction of a project. They will then design and develop construction specifications and procedures, ensuring that these plans meet the guidelines and specifications of building codes and other regulations. They will test, evaluate and recommend appropriate building and construction materials, and will establish and monitor construction work schedules. Civil engineers will also conduct feasibility studies, economic analyses, municipal and regional traffic studies, environmental impact studies and other investigations.
Civil engineers perform some or all of the following duties:
- Plan and design major civil projects such as buildings, roads, bridges, dams, water and waste management systems and structural fabrications
- Conduct feasibility studies, economic analyses, municipal and regional studies, environmental impact studies or other investigations
- Monitor air, water and soil quality and develop procedures to clean up contaminated sites
- Conduct technical analyses of survey and field data for development of topographic, soil, hydrological or other information and prepare reports
- Confer with clients and other members of an engineering team and conduct research to determine project requirements
- Develop construction specifications and procedures
- Evaluate and recommend appropriate building and construction materials
- Interpret, review and approve survey and civil design work
- Ensure construction plans meet guidelines and specifications of building codes and other regulations
- Conduct field services for civil works
- Establish and monitor construction work schedules
- Act as project or site supervisor for land survey or construction work
- Prepare contract documents and review and evaluate tenders for construction projects
- Supervise technicians, technologists and other engineers and review and approve designs, calculations and cost estimates.
A normal market situation is expected for civil engineers across most provinces. British Columbia and Manitoba are the exception. The average age of civil engineers rises notably in British Columbia and Manitoba, which will lead to excess demand in these provinces over the next five years as many engineers approach retirement age and leave the field.
- A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, preferably from an accredited program, or in a related engineering discipline is required.
- A master’s degree or doctorate in a related engineering discipline may be required for some positions.
- Licensing by a provincial or territorial association of professional engineers is required to approve engineering drawings and reports and to practise as a Professional Engineer.
- Engineers are eligible for licensure following graduation from an accredited educational program, and after three or four years of supervised work experience in engineering and passing a professional practice examination.