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Professional Development

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Mandatory Continuing Professional Development for Engineers in Ontario
Do We Need It?

Ecor 4995: Professional Practice
Section A

The rapidly increasing growth rate of the human population has more than doubled in the past 50 years. Despite the rapid growth, after the twenty first century the growth rate is increasing at a much more desirable rate, however at a time like this society faces many more challenges than ever before. Accommodating for sustainability and creating economical designs must be ensured. This is the challenges professional engineer’s face on a daily basis, an engineer is a person who applies their knowledge in the sciences and mathematics to design and provide services required for the publics need. Engineers are abided by the code of ethics and section 77 of regulation 941 states that all licensed engineers act with the following statement “knowledge of developments in the area of professional engineering relevant to any services that are undertaken; and competence in the performance of any professional engineering services that are undertaken” [1]. Continued professional development, is a learning tool for professional to stay current and maintain their knowledge and skills related to their professional lives [7]. On the basis that an engineer’s work is to provide development for society, the Professional Engineer of Ontario should mandate a professional development program to ensure that engineers remain competent throughout their professional careers. Current practices in Canada and around the world in engineering and similar practices, and the effects of the advancement of technologies requires CPD to ensure competent engineers. Regulating and launching a CPD program easily establishes the requirements of the publics need, regulator’s need, licensee’ need, and the employer’s need. As an engineer one of the main duties that must be fulfilled is to provide safety. In the case of the regulator, competence is mandatory in order to give out the designation of a professional engineer. For one to acquire a license, the correct training and practice of the code of ethics is key. While for the employer, a main requirement is that the engineer is honest and provides the best work to their abilities. Mandating a CPD program touches on all of the preceding elements, the teaching of new techniques and safety can ensure that public is in good hands, teaching new concepts and evaluating can provide regulators with who should be and not have licensure, lastly the CPD can ensure that the engineers are current and up to date with technology having satisfied employers. The professional engineers of Ontario also known as the PEO, “is the licensing and regulating body for engineering in the province” [3]. To be licensed and a continuous member, the key requirements are to graduate from an accredited program, fulfill acceptable work experience, and successfully complete the Professional Practice Examination (PPE). Throughout the process of obtaining the required work experience regulators require that the “Engineer in Training” must directly apply engineering principles to the job under the supervision of a licensed engineer. Advantages of having a CPD program ensures that these engineers who have been out of school for years are still correctly applying the right principles and knows what s/he is doing. Ensuring that only competent engineers are licensed reduces the possibility of minor and major design failures. It also creates a chance for one to network with other practicing engineers. A common way to describe an engineer would be, an engineer is a person who is educated and not trained. The same description applies both to doctors and lawyers, these individuals can spend at least 8 years of post-secondary education and are also required to pass multiple exams in order to be licensed. After comparing three of these profession only lawyers and doctors are required to partake in a continuous professional development program to further enhance their knowledge. Based on information provided by Engineers Canada, Ontario is one of the few provinces that does not mandate a CPD program. The college of family physicians of Canada abides by the following statement “As professionals, family physicians are obliged to remain current on advances and trends in medicine and health care delivery. This is achieved through participation in a variety of activities that constitute continuing professional development” [2]. The PEO describes itself by stating “It fulfills the same role for engineers as the College of Physicians and Surgeons for doctors or the Law Society of Upper Canada for lawyers” [3], it is evident that the PEO is clearly considering engineers, lawyers, and doctors in the same category. Looking back at section 77 regulation 941 a nearly identical statement to the one stated by the college of family physician, states “an engineer must acquire knowledge of developments in the area of professional engineering relevant to any services that are undertaken” [1]. Looking at the facts every year new research and techniques are being discovered around the globe, if our provincial neighbours and fellow engineers are taking part in a CPD program why should Ontarians be exempted. After all it’s their duty as they chose to be a part of the Professional Engineers of Ontario which states it in the code of ethics. Looking back in the past fifty years it is evident that the growth of technology has changed the way humans live on a day to day basis. Imagine going through an engineering degree without having daily access to basic necessities to complete homework with, study with, or to write examinations with, such as a computers and scientific calculator, most individuals would find this absurd and nearly impossible to obtain an engineering degree. However relevant engineers who are on the verge of retiring who graduated between the 1970’s and 1980’s completed what one might consider the impossible. Individuals who obtained their degrees post 21st century are much more accustomed to not having to memorize as much hence making them more prone in being forgetful. The trade-off here is that the much older engineers are more likely not up to date with new practices and computer skills that young engineers bring to the table. Lastly the new and advance technology allows growth in the research sector leading to new developing techniques to solve existing problems more efficiently. Since the 1980’s Ontario’s population has increased by approximately 62% [5]. As developing countries tend to grow at fast rates, research and new design regulation tend to also develop and change at fast rates to meet high demands in an economical and sustainable way. It is very common and much easier for an engineer to stick with the old techniques developed as a student rather to take new approaches where one might be unfamiliar with. An article produced by IEEE discusses studies done in the past which indicates the amount of time it takes for an engineer to lose half of its knowledge. In the 1920’s the half-life was considered to be 35 years, in the 60’s this value dropped to 10 years, and in the present the value is said to be up to a maximum of five years depending on the practice of engineering. It also states that in order to stay current and replace the obsolete knowledge an engineer “must spend 5 hours each week learning new technology, mathematics and scientific knowledge” [4]. In other words a 40 year career as an engineer would require an additional of 9600 hours of learning to be effectively utilized. These number were acquired from the assumption that an undergrad student roughly spends 40 hours a week dedicated to studying, and that the engineer does not forget previously learned knowledge that is still relevant [4]. The advancement of technology and sciences require CPD program to ensure that correct practices and competence are achieved within licensed engineers. In this day and age cheating as an undergraduate engineer has never been easier before. When it comes to assignments, solutions can easily be obtained through the internet, the use of cell phones during examinations, and many other techniques are being practiced throughout the world. A study conducted by the “Academy of Management Learning and Education, surveyed 5,300 U.S graduate from those numbers 54 per cent admitted to cheating, ranging from plagiarism to smuggling crib notes into exams” [6]. Majority of engineering faculties tend to recycle course materials which also makes it much easier for individuals who have access to solutions and other unauthorized materials before submission. Consequently students are not learning and not attending lectures while passing their classes. One of the requirements to become a professional engineer in Ontario or anywhere in the world is that an individual must have integrity and ethics. With an advanced professional development program Engineers in Training should also be evaluated to weed out individuals who are not fit to be engineers.
This goes to show that a professional development program in Ontario is overdue and is ultimately beneficial when it comes to the future success of engineers. As leaders engineers must act accordingly to the code of ethics and provide safety to the public every time while practicing. Being careful is key in today’s era as to more individuals resides per capita in Ontario. A small error 50 years ago, can be a huge error in 2016, therefore all due diligence must be accordingly taken care of. Who would not want to live in a world where the reduction of an engineering catastrophe is implemented? The addition of a CPD program brings us one step closer to this reality.

References Chicago style [1] "Code of Ethics." Code of Ethics. January 2013. Accessed February 02, 2016. http://peo.on.ca/index.php?ci_id=1815.

[2]"Continuing Professional Development (CPD)." CPD. Accessed February 02, 2016. http://www.cfpc.ca/cpd/

[3] "About PEO." About PEO. Accessed February 02, 2016. http://www.peo.on.ca/index.php?ci_id=1792.

[4] Charette, Robert N. "An Engineering Career: Only a Young Person’s Game?" September 4, 2013. Accessed February 02, 2016. http://spectrum.ieee.org/riskfactor/computing/it/an-engineering-career-only-a-young-persons-game.

[5] Statistics Canada. 2012. Visual Census. 2011 Census. Ottawa. October 24, 2012. Accessed February 3, 2016 http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/vc-rv/index.cfm?Lang=ENG&TOPIC_ID=1&GEOCODE=35. [6] "The Great University Cheating Scandal - Macleans.ca." Macleansca. 2007. Accessed February 02, 2016. http://www.macleans.ca/general/the-great-university-cheating-scandal/.

[7] "CPE Requirements." CPA. Accessed February 02, 2016. http://www.aicpa.org/cpeandconferences/cperequirements/pages/cperequiremeNTS.aspx.

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