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Re: STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING CERTIFICATION BOARD: What's The Deal?

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Dennis (and others),

Let me try to offer some insight from someone who was on the committe at
one point.

First, Stan's suggestion is a good one.  Go to the SECB's website and look
at some of the information that is there.  It will do a relatively good
job of answering quite a few of your questions and misconceptions.

Next, to answer your primary concern...No, this is not something pure done
by SEAOC.  Granted SEAOC is involved in a "round about" way.  It the
"baby" of NCSEA.  It was a program/initiative that was thought out and
produced by a NCSEA committee of structural engineers from around the
country.  Granted, somehow SEAOC did have two representatives on the
committee (don't know how they managed that, but that is beyond this
message).

Now as to the purpose/intent behind the SECB and National Certification,
the article will give some of the NCSEA and the Certification committee's
intent and/or reasons (at least I believe they will...have really fully
read all those articles on the SECB site...which a lot of them were in the
Structure magazine).  But, being involved with the committee for a time,
here are my impressions:

1) The primary goal was to create a body that could "regulate" (that word
is too strong, but the best my feable mind can come up with at the moment)
the profession of people who should best be able to "regulate" the
profession...i.e. us (i.e. structural engineers).  This was to be modelled
after how other professions work such as doctors, architects, etc.  If you
use doctor's as an example, they get a very basic "generic" license (i.e.
from a legal [state's] point of view they can practice in ANY area of
medicine just with their license), but their "board" certifications is
what "regulates" their practice of specialties, etc.

2) To deal with the "eroding" educations system (others view, not
necessarily mine), it was felt that more severe education requirement
might be worthwhile (i.e. actually requiring someone doing structural
engineer to take a certain number of required structural classes).  In
addition, to have exams that focused on structural problems and were a
little more "robust" than the PE exams.  The intent was to have something
for exams more in line with what say Illinois requires (i.e. Struct I and
II exams).

3) To differentiate from general practice civil engineers.  The belief was
that in this day and age, it took quite a bit to learn the speciality of
structural engineering (i.e. more complex codes, especially seismic
related).  The desire was to have a mechanism to "express" this need more
more advanced knowledge and specialized skills (i.e. not just any old
engineer can do structural work).

4) To potentially increase the value of structural engineers.  One way
that this was thought was if there was a structural certification, then
maybe entities like insurance companies would require a certified
structural engineer to do the design work.  This would have the potential
to maybe boost what could be fees as the demand might be greater.

5) The "precursor" to possible national licensing.  This was one that I
believed in.  The idea behind this thought is that if a system were setup
that states could "adopt by reference" (sound familiar...kind of like
codes, eh?) a system that would allow them to setup an easy way to have an
SE license (as opposed to just a generic PE), then maybe more states would
be willing to eventual establish an SE license.  If so, then they could
just have their SE license requirements be "get a structural
certification", fill out the forms, and pay the fee (note: this is kind of
how architects are licensed, I believe).  Now, this part got a little
complex because of California, but I discuss that more below.

Those were some of the intents/reasons that I "saw".  Now, I problem did
not do them justice in my explanation, but you can at least get the idea.
The articles on the SECB website should help more.

Now, the one "complexity" that did arise was the push from the California
folks have a SE I and SE II (i.e. Dennis...what you refer to).  I believe
this was "nipped in the bud", but don't know what finally came out as I
could not continue on the committee at the time.  When I left the
committee, the direct was to have a "base" certification that was rather
similar in requirements to what Illinois requires.  Beyond that, there
could be "speciality" certifications.  I have to admit that I don't fully
know how the recommendations turned out (more on that in a second...jeesh,
don't be so impatient) as I have not really had the time to keep up with
what they have done.

It should be noted that the roles of the NCSEA committee was to create a
recommended framework for a possible SECB.  The idea was that if NCSEA
were to go forward with creating a SECB that it would be a complete
autonomus (sp?) entity.  It would be given some seed money and help from
NCSEA, but after that it was on its own.  It's operating funds would come
from fees/dues from those that get certified.  And once created, NCSEA
would have no control over it (other than many of the same people who were
involved in NCSEA might also be involved in the SECB).

The big issue that also had to be resolved was "grandfathering".  The SECB
needed people to initially buy into the idea and "join" (i.e. pay fees)
and this would be accomplished by grandfathering in people.  The intent
was that anyone who actively practices structural engineering in any
state (i.e. even though with generic PE licenses in their state) should be
grandfathered.  In otherwords, they did not want to "cut off" anyone who
had the right to practice structural engineering as it is right now due to
their legal right (i.e. license).  So, I believe that ANYONE who has a PE
license and practices structural engineering as of some date (don't know
what that date is) would be eligible to be grandfathered.  This means
those that have "just" (no insult intented) PE licenses in California
should be grandfathered just as those with SE licenses or those with
"just" PE licenses in states without SE licenses.  The difference is that
if they did proceed with the "base" certification and specialty
certification is that the primary grandfathering stuff would only be for
the "base" certification.

Now, for me personally, I overall think that it is a worthwhile endevour.
I do, however, think that they made a tactical error.  As I understand the
grandfathering provisions, I can be grandfathered at ANY time...if I
choose to wait, then I will just have to pay the "back" dues fees from
that time back until now.  In the end it will amount to the same cost, but
I can wait and see if the SECB succeeds or dies a slow death.  If the SECB
dies a slow death, then any money that I pump into it is completely lost
with no benefit what so ever.  In otherwords, the way that they did the
grandfathering results in no incentive to get people to sign up now rather
than later (at least as I understand it)...and this means that they might
be missing some who might wait and thus their initial level of funds to
work with will be lower.  Beyond that I have yet to get any letters, etc
inviting me to "join" so I have not been "fully" faced with that decision.

In the end, I encourage you to look the information on the SECB site.
As Stan right fully puts it (OK, look out for the next natural
distaster...Stan and I agree on something! <grin>) or rather to phrase
him:  Learn a little about it before you jump to conclusions.

Regards,

Scott
Adrian, MI


On Fri, 18 Mar 2005, Dennis S. Wish, PE wrote:

> Neil Moore wrote:
>
> > Dennis:
> >
> > I think that this organization is was only addressed to licensed
> > structural engineers, at least here in California.
> >
> >
> > Neil Moore, S.E.
> > neil moore and associates
> > shingle springs, california
> >
> >
> Neil,
> What purpose does this organization serve? My concern is something that
> Bill Warren, SE once wrote while working with Ron Hamburger on an NCSEA
> Committee that there was an intent for SE's to regulate what an SE-I or
> CE from practicing. While I realize that Certification of SE's or an
> organization that only serves this portion of the community will impose
> or try to impose certain controls over the industry - infringing on the
> rights of non-SE's (at least in title states) to practice.
> When I hear this, it makes me nervous while NO! I don't intend to take
> the SE after nearly 30 years in the profession and nearly 20 years in
> private practice. I've not overstepped my bounds and have every right to
> continue to practice those areas of engineering that I am qualified to
> perform.
> So, the bottom line is - what purpose does this group serve?
>
> Thanks Neil,
> Dennis
>
>
> --
>
> *Dennis S. Wish, PE*
> *California Professional Engineer
> Structural Engineering Consultant
>
> dennis.wish(--nospam--at)verizon.net*
> *
> 760.564.0884 (office - fax)
> *
>
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