Tim Austin, PE, NSPE National President, presented a year end summary at the NSPE June conference on June 23rd, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. 10 NYSSPE members including Executive Director Anthony Fasano, PE (seen in the photo above with Tim Austin) attended the conference to bring NYSSPE these updates. In a year of increased activism and impact, here are 17 specific ways NSPE delivered for professional engineers, based on Austin’s update and documentation handed out at the meeting.
1. Protecting the License
Across the country, NSPE addressed the growing number of challenges that would weaken or eliminate licensure. The most serious of these came in August, where extensive advocacy efforts by the Indiana Society of Professional Engineers and NSPE resulted in the Indiana Job Creation Commission rescinding its recommendation to eliminate licensure of the professional engineer in the state. Similar efforts at “occupational reform,” while often not specifically targeting the PE, presented serious threats to engineering licensure in Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
2. Ethical Innovation: Autonomous Vehicles
NSPE took a leadership role in the field of autonomous vehicles, ensuring the involvement of PEs and their dedication to protecting the public health, safety, and welfare. NSPE contributed to the regulatory discussion about autonomous vehicles at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure ethical innovation and safety in this developing technology. NSPE’s message resonated with the media. It was covered and distributed widely by AP, highlighted on the PBS NewsHour, and covered internationally, for example, by the UK’s
Daily Mail. More: www.nspe.org/autonomous
3. Responsible Charge: Gold King Mine
During a federal reclamation project at the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado, a series of events led to the uncontrolled release of toxic mine wastewater into a local tributary. NSPE quickly issued a statement strongly urging the Environmental Protection Agency and all federal agencies to review their existing requirements and practices. NSPE continues to work with Rep. Bruce Westerman, P.E. (R-AR) and federal officials to ensure that licensed professional engineers are in responsible charge of engineering projects. In April, the EPA requested that NSPE review and provide input to a best practices report and checklist the agency is developing in response to the mine disaster.
4. Responsible Charge: Chemical Facility Safety
In response to catastrophic incidents at US chemical facilities, the Environmental Protection Agency asked NSPE to submit comments on a proposed rule that would require PEs on audit teams. The EPA’s goal was to ensure the involvement of “competent auditors that also have an ethical obligation to perform unbiased work” in the interest of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare. NSPE advised the EPA that, at a minimum, a PE should serve on the audit team, but preferably as the lead. In an excellent example of joint state-national advocacy, 17 state societies also filed comments.
5. Responsible Charge: ALL Federal Engineering Projects
NSPE’s ongoing and sustained advocacy for the PE resulted in the Environmental Protection Agency including requirements in a final rule (Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emissions Standards for New, Reconstructed and Modified Sources) that licensed professional engineers be in responsible charge on all engineering projects, both in an independent third-party capacity, as well as in an in-house role. Importantly, the “professional engineering model” put forth by EPA goes beyond the scope of just this rule. EPA clearly asserted the need for the “professional engineer model” on all EPA projects and created strong grounds for arguing this model should be applied to all federal engineering projects.
6. Emphasizing the PE’s Role in Project Quality, Value
For decades, NSPE has advocated for the use of qualifications-based selection in the procurement of professional engineering services. This year, NSPE testified in Kansas against an audit recommendation suggesting that the state DOT end its use of QBS. In Michigan, NSPE called on state legislators to support a bill setting procedures for local governments to procure architectural, engineering, and land surveying services using QBS. And at the federal level, NSPE objected to the proposed removal of QBS provisions from a surface transportation bill. The amendment was subsequently withdrawn.
7. One PE License
NSPE supports the concept of licensure of engineers only as professional engineers and opposes licensure by designated branches or specialties. This well-tested approach to the regulation of engineering practice has been protecting the public for decades. In February, NSPE opposed an Oklahoma bill that would enact a separate license for structural engineers. About six months earlier, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying rejected a proposal, opposed by NSPE, that would have established in the council’s Model Law a protected structural engineering title and restricted SE practice.
8. Education Reform
NSPE played a significant role in revisions to the criteria used by ABET for accrediting college engineering programs. The Society’s goal is to ensure that all students, regardless of engineering discipline, are prepared to enter the profession with the necessary skills, experience, and judgment. ABET’s proposed changes to accreditation mirrored some of NSPE suggestions, including new student outcomes incorporating risk and uncertainty as well as principles related to project management. In addition, ABET’s revisions added a specific reference to humanities and social sciences in the general education component complementing a technical curriculum, an approach NSPE has endorsed. NSPE also urged ABET, in assessing its future, to place a greater emphasis on the value of licensure.
9. Professional Conduct
When the World Federation of Engineering Organizations proposed a model code of conduct to address climate change and infrastructure resiliency, NSPE was looking out for professional engineers. The Society commented that the new model could expose PEs to increased claims and litigation. Upon receiving the comment, which gained full support from the American Association of Engineering Societies, WFEO revised the model to better protect PEs and more accurately reflect engineering practice.
10. Ensuring a Sustainable Future for Membership for National and the States
NSPE national and state leaders, working with a well-known membership marketing consulting firm, engaged in a serious business planning effort to simplify the three-tier dues-paying structures across and among the NSPE state societies in a manner that is easy to understand for all members; offer a compelling value proposition for integrated membership; and support the revenue needs of national and its state societies in a sustainable fashion.
11. Marketing + Results Generated for the Benefit of State Societies
Simultaneously, NSPE national funded, entirely at its own expense, three separate membership initiatives this spring that generated more than $47,000 in dues for state societies. The three campaigns included a member-geta-member campaign, a lapsed member campaign that resulted in more than 320 members rejoining NSPE, and a “career progression” marketing campaign aimed at newly licensed PEs and EIs/EITs.
12. New Sources of News, Information
NSPE Speaks, a new podcast available on iTunes, and the new digital newsletter PE Scope, provided members with the news that kept them up to date on the profession and their Society.
13. Community Building
Launched in May, NSPE’s online Communities is an easy way to connect with fellow members, ask questions, and discuss topics of interest. Log in today, complete your profile, and join the growing community. Feedback and beta testing was provided by NSPE committees and task forces. Early adoption by hundreds of NSPE members has been achieved in just the first few weeks.
14. Career Building
To help job seekers and employers alike, NSPE held its first Virtual Career Fair. The online event, held in February, drew 226 registrants and sparked 108 employment conversations. NSPE’s next Virtual Career Fair is planned for October 6. This is in addition to the always available online Job Board, used by more than 1,300 job seekers and 432 employers seeking engineers in the past year.
15. Continuous Learning
Members continued to take advantage of NSPE’s learning opportunities. The online PE Institute connected members with more than 140 learning events, and members downloaded more than 20,000 complimentary online courses. All members receive access to 15 free PDHs through online courses.
16. National/State Partnership Amplifies the PE’s Voice
Over the past year, Society leaders ensured that the voice of the professional engineer was heard. In state legislatures, on Capitol Hill, in regulatory agencies, and among other engineering and technical organizations, a growing awareness of NSPE and its values has raised the profile of PEs and their role in society.
17. Increasing the Pace in NSPE’s Race for Relevance
NSPE was established in 1934 to realize a simple but vital goal: create an inclusive, nontechnical organization dedicated to the interests of licensed professional engineers, regardless of practice area, that would protect engineers (and the public) from unqualified practitioners, build public recognition for the profession, and stand against unethical practices. Recognizing the imperative for change that all professional societies face (as documented in the book, Race for Relevance), building on the work of seven task forces, involving over 96 NSPE members from 41 states in over 3,000 hours of volunteer work effort, and as captured in the NSPE Strategic Plan, your professional society is taking great strides to ensure that it continues to meet these fundamental purposes.
Note: NYSSPE facilitates posting on this blog, but the views and accounts expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not the views or accounts of NYSSPE, its officers or directors whose views and accounts may or may not be similar or identical. NYSSPE, its officers and directors do not express any opinion regarding any product or service by virtue of reference to such product or service in this blog.