Maintaining professional competence

I have known President George Comrie for many years and respect his commitment to the engineering profession. I was particularly interested in his comments regarding continuing professional development (CPD), which I fully endorse as being even more relevant today than when he expressed his original ideas in 2004. When I graduated as a civil engineer 60 years ago, computers were virtually unheard of and slide rules and logarithms were the norm in undertaking calculations. Simple structural designs could take days, and while many of us “old-timers” have struggled to keep up with modern technology, I was humbled when I read a recent article in the UK publication New Civil Engineer.

If I may quote a phrase from the Comrie article in the July/August 2016 issue of Engineering Dimensions (“Better regulation still the goal, says Comrie,” p. 36): “At the same time, I firmly believe the status quo is not a sustainable option. PEO cannot continue to require nothing of its members to maintain their licences other than payment of their annual dues.”

The UK article was entitled “Cream of the Crop” and listed what it considered the 2016 Companies of the Year, following a “painstaking [selection] process” to choose the 100. When reading this article, I was humbled, as I have already stated, by how little I knew of the current state of innovation in the civil engineering industry. Quoting from the article: “In total the NCE 100 brought 666 different technology innovations to market in 2015. A good civil engineering practice is one that seeks to maximize the use of technology. Of the NCE 100, 81 per cent have a digital strategy and a board director responsible for its successful implementation. Equally, 81 per cent claimed to be ready to operate in a building information modelling (BIM) Level 2 environment. Proving that technical best-practice sharing runs through many of the hundred, on average 41 per cent of senior management sits on industry panels and boards with 13 per cent of all staff–on average–getting involved in industry committees and professional knowledge sharing groups.”

I could go on and quote many other statistics but the message to me is quite clear. Engineers in the 21st century have no option other than to maintain their professional competence and this means acting in a proactive manner right across the board from the most senior partner to those newly entered into the profession. I have now been retired for many years and I regret the fact that technology has now far outpaced my knowledge even though during my career I was honoured by receiving fellowships in both the UK and Canadian professional organizations. George Comrie’s comments are both timely and relevant.

Brian Lechem, P.Eng., Toronto, ON