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NCSEA Certification (was RE: Florida PE-Bureaucracy)

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While I am not sure if it will happen or not for many reasons, I do want
to correct you on one thing.

The proposed certification model has absolutely NOTHING to do with the
federal government.  It is being proposed by a private organization and is
intented to be run/opperated by the structural engineering profession.
Thus, it also would have absolutely nothing to do with any state
governments.

If it comes to be, it would initially be a voluntary certification process
with its only "power" coming from the construction/building industry
incoroporating it into our world (i.e. may insurance companies might begin
requiring structures to be designed by a certified [and licensed]
structural engineer).  The hope of some would be that in the future the
states could use it in their licensing process (i.e. California could
revert to a "plain old" PE license system similar to every other state,
but could then also require a person to be certified in structural design
for high seismic regions for specific types of buildings or even all
buildings), but there is certainly no way for that type of use to be
required as it would require acts from each state legislature to make
changes to the PE act in each state.

Thus, to me, the biggest hurdle the whole certification proposal has is
acceptance by the profession.  While there are some things that have been
discussed that could "force" the profession to adopt it (i.e. if insurance
companies like the idea and require it or large clients such as the U.S.
Government or state governments or large companies like the idea and
require it on projects designed for them), the biggest way for it to be
adopted is if the professional "buys" into it.  This first requires that
the majority of engineers at least understand it and what it is attempting
to accomplish (which is NOT national licensing, but maybe, just maybe, in
the distant future a way to get to national licensing).  Then, the
proposed system has to be modified to get the desired result while not
alienating large portions of the profession (which they are not quite
there yet in my opinion).

As a simple example of one potential stumbling block, let's look at some
of the ideas in regards to the potential education requirement.  The
certificate model is working hand-in-hand with the suggested structural
curriculm that was prepared by another NCSEA committee.  This includes a
rather hefty set of requirements in term of structural courses (i.e. two
steel courses, two concrete courses, a wood course, a masonry course, two
analysis courses, a matrix method course, a dynamic course including
seismic, a foundation course and a technical writing course...a total of
36 hours) that realistically cannot currently be fit into a normal
university undergrad program without seriously deviating from an ABET
accredited curriculm.  This presents the first serious hurdle because if
you modify the current undergrad programs to accommidate this course work
then the degree that a recent grad would get in such a program would not
longer be ABET accredited and for all intents and purposes would prevent
them from getting their license (the certification system would not
eliminate the need for licenses in each state, but in theory "augment"
them).  On the otherhand, the additional classwork could be handled by
additional classwork beyond the undergrad level (i.e. a Master's degree),
but then you are facing the problem of "forcing" people to pay significant
money for more classwork that has little potential for finacial reward
(there are those that believe that increased educational requirements
[i.e. ASCE's first professional degree, etc] would increase the
stature/recognition of the professional and ultimately the pay...a concept
of which I am far from convinved on, especially since my additional
education, which extremely valuable in my own eyes, has essentially
provide not much in the way of increasing my pay or stature).

Now, don't get me wrong, I am a BIG supporter of the idea of more
education being good.  Since I have virtually exhausted the list of
possible structural classes at the University of Michigan over the years
(with the exception of heavy duty FEA classes), I would meet the
requirements outlined in the NCSEA proposed curriculm with the exception
of the masonry course since Michigan like most schools don't offer a
masonry or wood course (my wood course was actually through the
architecture department and while techinically meeting the NCSEA
"requirement" would fall short in reality in my opinion).  Personally, I
would likely encourge young engineers to take additional courses beyond
the minimum required in an ABET program, but I find it difficult to force
someone to spend thousands of dollar especially since they can in fact
learn a lot of this information on the job (and realistically are supposed
to do so as part of their four years of experience before being able to
take the PE exam, although many employers in the profession don't live up
to their responsibility in this area).

Add in things like how do you justify grandfathering in people who don't
met the new education requirements (sure they probably learned this stuff
on the job, but then why can't future engineers too?) and other such
delimas and you are faced with some serious questions that have to be
answered in such a way to satisfy most structural engineers before it gets
adopted.  Add to that NCSEA's apparent lack of interest of broadly
advertising their effort to include those that may not be reached by a
NCSEA member organization, ASCE's SEI, or CASE (the policy was that
updates and progress reports would only appear in the Structure magazine
which may not reach all SEs since it only goes to NCSEA member
organization's members, SEI members and CASE members) and now you
potentially have a number of engineers that are not really aware of or
represented in the process, thus leaving them out of the loop until maybe
right at the end.

The end result is that the certification process while extremely
worthwhile in my opinion (I believe in the overall end goal) faces a
increbily large uphill battle.  At this point, I think that the somewhat
closed process (a bone of contention for me while I was involved) is an
major area of potential failure of this proposal.

But then, what do I know?  I am just one structural engineer in a world of
many.

HTH,

Scott
Ypsilanti, MI

On Mon, 6 Jan 2003, Jonathan Mallard wrote:

> I don't think that's ever going to happen.  As I understand it,
> the certification model didn't go over very well at the national
> meeting.
>
> However, I think that the real reason it will never happen is
> the 10th amendment.  No matter how I try, I cannot convince myself
> that regulation of buildings falls under federal jurisdiction.  I
> think it is one of those powers that is reserved to the states.
>
> I do concede the point that bridges do fall to the Feds... that's
> the maintain and regulate post roads clause, I think.
>
> Disclaimers:  I'm not a lawyer.  These are my own opinions, not necessarily
> those of my employer.
>


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