Licensing, Certificate of Authorization changes strengthen regulation of professional engineering

The Ontario government’s open for business legislation of 2010 provided PEO the opportunity to secure much-desired Professional Engineers Act amendments that enhance its accountability and transparency, and recognize highly skilled practitioners.

For Ontario’s engineering profession, there was much more to celebrate on July 1, 2015 than just the country’s 148th birthday. The date also marked the day key amendments to the Professional Engineers Act (PEA) were proclaimed into effect. At the same time, associated changes were made to Ontario Regulation 941/90−changes that PEO believes will bring further transparency, accountability and effectiveness to engineering regulation.

The PEA amendments, some of which PEO had been working on for more than 10 years, were fast-tracked when the Ontario government passed the Open for Business Act, 2010. This legislation focused on changes to other legislation that would enhance economic competitiveness and labour mobility.

RECOGNIZING SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS

Changes to section 17 of the PEA and associated sections 47 to 50 of Regulation 941/90, for example, relate to PEO’s Certificate of Authorization (C of A). These changes implement an approved 2002 recommendation of PEO’s Technologist Licensure Task Group (TLTG) that limited licence holders be permitted to be responsible for engineering services, within the limitations of their licences, provided to the public under a C of A–either their own or another’s. Making this happen required a change to the PEA, and the C of A sections of the regulation.

To support Cs of A for limited licence holders, the TLTG also recommended, and council approved, strengthening the requirements to get a limited licence. Accordingly, section 46 of the regulation has been amended to do just that. The amendments to section 46 make more general the academic requirements for a limited licence to accommodate applicants with technical degrees/diplomas in a broader range of disciplines than those to which the licence historically applied. Applicants for a limited licence are also now required to demonstrate equivalent depth of knowledge within the proposed limitation of their licences to that expected of applicants for a professional engineer licence, which will be assessed by PEO’s Academic Requirements Committee.

Applicants for limited licences must also obtain eight years of engineering experience that meets the published criteria of the Guide to the Required Experience for a Limited Licence in Ontario, approved by PEO council in March 2014. Previously, applicants were required to obtain 13 years of experience that was not as clearly defined. In addition, at least six years of the experience must correspond to the scope of professional engineering services to be provided under the limited licence, with at least four of those six years’ experience acquired in a Canadian jurisdiction under the supervision of a professional engineer. Previously, one year of the required experience had to be acquired under the supervision and direction of a professional engineer, with at least the last two years of experience being in the services within the practice of professional engineering to which the limited licence would apply.

The TLTG also recommended that a class of limited licence–the licensed engineering technologist (LET)–be established for a limited licence holder who is also a certified engineering technologist (C.E.T.) with the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT). This recommendation was enabled by adding a new section 46.0.1 to the regulation. This new class of limited licence recognizes that these practitioners have met additional qualifications to obtain and maintain their OACETT certifications and their willingness to be held professionally accountable by both the licensing and certification bodies.

Stephen Morley, C.E.T., OACETT past president, said the regulation changes are welcome news for his 24,000 member-strong organization. “In enacting these regulations, Professional Engineers Ontario has recognized the wider range of work engineering technologists are qualified to perform, subject to meeting licensing requirements,” Morley said in a statement. “These requirements are demanding, in keeping with the need to protect the public, but for OACETT members who are suitably qualified [certified engineering technologists], this limited licence creates a pathway toward professional advancement.”

PEO Registrar Gerard McDonald, P.Eng., concurs. He said in July 2015: “We’re pleased PEO can make these changes to recognize the important role played in the profession by the holders of our limited licences and new licensed engineering technologist class of limited licence.”

Holders of the new class of limited licence may use the protected title “licensed engineering technologist” and “LET” designation. LETs will also be issued their own seal, which is a variation of the seal issued to holders of limited licences, who now hold a protected title of “limited engineering licensee” (LEL). LET seals will include the licensed engineering technologist title. The seals of LELs will show their title as limited engineering licensee. The seals of both LETs and LELs will include the holder’s name, limited licence number, category of limited licence (computer, for example), and the licence limitations.

LONG IN THE WORKS

Morley says the end result is the fruit of more than a decade of collaboration between OACETT and PEO. “At the end of this lengthy negotiation process and effective co-operation between our two organizations, the provincial government saw fit to amend the regulation and proclaim the enabling amendments to the Professional Engineers Act, which were approved in 2010.”

Even prior to the July 1, 2015 proclamation date, PEO had begun work on developing an application process for OACETT members interested in the LET designation.

“We have received a lot of inquiries,” says Lawrence Fogwill, P.Eng., PEO’s manager, registration. “Only a few have mentioned that they intend to pursue their own C of A, but time will tell.”

PEO President-elect George Comrie, P.Eng., FEC, chair of the now-stood-down Licensing Process Task Force (LPTF), says the July 2015 regulation changes were overdue. “The driving force behind these changes was the commitment that we made to OACETT about 2001 or that timeframe,” Comrie says, adding that other engineering regulators have long struggled with the regulatory relationship between engineers and engineering paraprofessionals. “In Ontario, we have found a better way to do this. We were basically waiting on the government for an act change, which we got in 2010. And then OACETT reminded us that it was time to do the rest of the regulation changes to bring the LET into being.”

He says PEO’s limited licence, while long in existence, has never seen a large uptake. However, with the creation of the LET, and the move to allow holders of limited licences to obtain a C of A, PEO is moving its licensing authority in a positive direction.

He also said the now more flexible limited licence is an excellent vehicle for PEO to explore licensing options in emerging disciplines, such as critical infrastructure engineering or nanotechnology. “You have people out there practising a form of engineering and here is PEO saying ‘this is the practice of professional engineering now.’ And they don’t have engineering degrees. But they may be able to meet the academic requirement for a limited licence and demonstrate competence. This just might reflect our ability to establish some sort of beachhead in an emerging discipline,” Comrie says.

CLEARER, QUICKER, MORE ACCOUNTABLE LICENSING

The open for business initiative also allowed PEO to follow up recommendations contained in the LPTF report, which was approved by PEO council in January 2008.

For example, the LPTF recommended that the regulation be amended to require the Academic Requirements (ARC) and Experience Requirements (ERC) committees to specify the academic or experience requirements to be met by licenceapplicants the committees determine do not meet the requirements for licensure.

Before the recent regulation changes, ARC was required only to make recommendations to the registrar on what examinations or other academic requirements an applicant must complete, while ERC was required only to determine whether an applicant meets the experience requirements and so inform the registrar. The PEA, however, requires the registrar to give notice to applicants of determinations by one or both of the committees, which notice is required to detail the requirements applicants must meet to qualify for licensing.

The amendments to sections 40(2) and 41(2) of the regulation, which became effective April 2, 2015, align the regulation with the notice provisions of section 14(6) of the PEA, and provide greater clarity to licence applicants about how they might meet the licence requirements. This increases PEO’s accountability and transparency to licence applicants.

The LPTF also recommended changes to the requirements to obtain a temporary licence, which harmonize these requirements with those for obtaining a licence as a professional engineer. Changes to sections 43 and 44 of the regulation to implement this recommendation, also effective April 2, have enabled PEO to streamline the list of exemptions to the requirement for a Canadian P.Eng. collaborator by permitting a temporary licence holder who has 12 months of Canadian experience to be exempted from the requirement for a collaborator. This is the same Canadian experience required for a full P.Eng. licence. The holder of a full P.Eng. licence requires no collaborator.

These changes ensure the temporary licence remains a useful option for engineers needing to be licensed relatively quickly to meet a specific need, who are not licensed in another province. Having such practitioners apply for a P.Eng.licence, which they can do since Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status is not required for licensure, would potentially delay their licensure.

Engineers licensed in another Canadian jurisdiction who require a licence to work in Ontario temporarily can quickly obtain a full P.Eng. licence under interprovincial mobility agreements.

PAVING THE PATH TO LICENSURE

The 2010 open for business PEA amendments also included a new section 20.1, setting out the conditions for a licence applicant to be accepted as an engineering intern, and a new section 40(3.2) protecting the engineering intern title and EIT designation. Like other of the PEA amendments, they were not immediately proclaimed, in this case pending regulations setting out the necessary academic requirements to be an engineering intern and engineering interns’ rights and privileges.

Changes to section 32.1 of the regulation, effective July 1, 2015, permitted proclamation of the pending PEA amendments.

With these amendments, licence applicants who are enrolled in PEO’s engineering intern training program and meet the academic requirements are officially recognized as being on the path to professional licensure with a protected title they can use to show their commitment to the profession.

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