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Proposed ASCE legislation to require 30 continuing education PDH

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Continuing Education is one of those subjects that tends to draw a lot of opinions, supported by not a lot of facts.  Here are mine:
 
If we want to call ourselves a profession, we should act like it.  To me this implies that we understand that knowledge is what we sell.  I believe that this knowledge is rather fluid, even in our profession, and so should be updated and augmented more or less continuously.  If you want to keep on designing with no more knowledge than you had in the 1980's you should bill yourself out at the rates you billed for in the 80's.
 
Let me take David Merrick's comments (below) one at a time.
 
1.  Cost of seminars.  If someone told you that you should design their project for the prestige and recognition it would bestow on you, the correct response would be to wait until you've shown them the door before breaking out in laughter.  Or anger.  Let's be serious.
 
Not sure what you meant with the reference to cost of books.  If someone like AISC wants to cut you a break on the cost of books to lure you into taking one of their seminars, great.  Take it or don't.
 
2.  "Self study of relevant materials" is a fine thing, but has one very significant problem:  hard to prove you did it, unless there is a test component or something like that, in which case, I agree with you--it should be allowed at a higher percent.
 
3.  PDH requirements based on length of experience.  Interesting idea.  My reservation to that is that the older engineers are often the most calcified ones and may benefit the most from new information.  Young engineers, being unable to sign drawings by themselves, are required by law to work under the instruction of an older engineer.  In most design offices, this mentoring does not stop when they first pass their test; instead, they are gradually given more responsibility with less oversight.  Engineers with 30 and 40 years of experience may be very, very good, but may also have stopped asking questions of others years ago.  I know more than a few who really, really should spend more time talking with other engineers.
 
4.  Stop giving group discount rates for presentations.  Why?  If you want to work on your own and can't get this advantage, you should factor that in to your costs when you decide you want to work on your own.  If an office with 20 people pays rent per employee that is less than yours because they use less space per person that you do, I can't imagine a landlord reducing your rent to be fair to you.
 
We get a reasonable percentage of our PDH's from vendor presentations.  We have learned to sift out salesmanship from valuable technical information; it's not hard to do.  These cost only your time and a phone call.  It is a valid and valuable source of technical information.
 
5.  PDH's given for planning or giving a presentation.  I can attest that preparing to give a presentation causes me to research and organize my knowledge to a remarkable degree.  I usually learn at least as much as the attendees.
 
6.  Design error reduced by PDH's.  I have no statistics.  But my observations of different personalities tells me that the leave-me-alone-at-my-desk stereotypical engineers, after a few years, get pretty limited in what they can do.  Now, it is true, you can lead an engineer to a seminar but you can't make him listen.  However, by the time you've invested whatever it takes to be there, you usually find it interesting enough that you'll come away with something.
 
 
It comes to this:  for a century or more, structural engineers have acted as a sort of shadow profession: sit in the corner until asked to speak.  Part of being taken seriously is taking ourselves seriously.  And continuing ed requirements are a part of that.
 
And if it costs everyone something to follow this requirement, then everyone adds the cost to their fees.  The way to make your fees go up is to demand more and not take less.  It works if everyone has to do it.
 
Mike Hemstad, P.E., S.E.
Meyer Borgman Johnson
Minneapolis, Minnesota
 
 
David Merrick wrote:
 
This is in response to the ASCE proposed wording to require PDH units of
continuing education.
Cost of seminars seem to have gone beyond just covering the rent of a
space, some snacks and documentation. Lecturers need to recognize their
reward is professional status and recognition as a leader, not pay. Text
and code books now seem to cost more than that of publishing and are
used to sweeten the purchase of seminars.
* I recommend to not limit "Self study of relevant materials" to just
10% of PDH units. It is the wrong message to deny that self study is the
most important source of continuing knowledge. The limit of credit seems
to be contrived from a distrust of licensed engineers and to profit by
forcing purchases of seminars. The most affective source of my growth
and knowledge has been from collecting a large library, a whole room,
and constantly referencing it in my professional ponderings, curiosity
as well as research for a project.
* I recommend reducing the number of PDH units required to reflect
length of experience. Continuing education courses increase in
repetitiveness to my existing knowledge as my experience increases. I
recommend reducing the amount of PDH units required, based on years
having been licensed. Such as the PDH units required could be 30 units
divided by the number of years licensed.
* Prevent giving out reduced rates for one company and multiple users.
If not then the percent discounted should reduce that amount of PDH
units to be earned. This will prevent corruption of the PDH seminar process.
* Its seems that some of the PDH units resources are given out to
activities not enhancing one's personal growth such as for teaching or
lecturing in a seminar. The work study to give the presentation my
enhance a growth of knowledge, but if so, then any one's design work
effort should also get PDH units designing includes research, review and
study. This goes back to reducing the PDH units for the length of time
having been licensed.
I have found no statistics where design error or construction error have
been reduced due to a jurisdiction adding a requirement for PDH units.
If it is a fact that safety is not increased when requiring PDH units,
then such a programs should be discontinued, and such jurisdictions
should not be used as examples to argue that a lot of folks do it so why
not?
The proposed rules seem to be weighted by a profit motive to sell PDHs.
The proposed rules seem to cater to the closest to ASCE, large companies
investing in, makers of, and lecturers of the code.
There must be better ways to improve the safety of the society we serve.
It seems counter productive to charge the servants of construction, not
the user.
Consider if the legislated code were easy to find to freely to down
load, with usable text to search, copy and paste. Would that not greatly
increase safety to not restrict the rules intended to create a safe world?
Make seminars free to find to freely down load with subtitles of usable
text to search copy and paste.
David B Merrick, SE