Monday, January 31, 2011

Why do I argue with B.Eng MIAust's? I should know better.

From my very earliest childhood I knew what architects and engineers did. If
teachers were correct that only qualified persons are employed in jobs, then
clearly the qualification of engineers and architects was and still is
inadequate. Since architects and engineers are educated to reach their
positions, then clearly the education system is also defective, and the
educators themselves less than competent. It is thus stupid to waste time
arguing with people who are narrow minded: and not even aware that they are
part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Organisations like engineers australia (IEAust) are tasked with the
self-regulation of the engineering profession. They do not do a very good
job of assessing technical competence in specific areas of practice and
protecting public health, safety and welfare. Their primary concern is the
use of the trite and silly title "engineer", and restricting its use to
persons with a B.Eng. I have no problems with who they restrict the title
to: it is an irrelevant title and does not have anything to do with
technical competence and the needs of society and industry. So fine, great,
those with a B.Eng are engineers. They may also progress to being capitalist
profiteering professionals CP.Eng, still further trite title, which still
doesn't have anything to do with the needs of industry and society. All such
titles, post nominals and credentials are concerned with the status and
prestige of the individual, not the needs of society, and not properly
assessed technical competence.
In Australia as with many other countries we have a national qualification
frame work, named the Australian Qualification frameweok (AQF), associated
with are national training packages.

Training Packages:

At present most of the training packages do not extend beyond AQF advanced
diploma, and this is because industry and society does not require higher
levels of education to develop and maintain its technological systems.
Engineer is a profession, it is an invention, just like a TV or a car, it is
not concerned with any job function or task within society or industry: it
is concerned with the status of the individual. Thus both educational
institutions and industry are both hampered in supply of technical
personnel. There is a myth that if the IEAust does not accredit a technical
study programme then cannot practice in industry. That is nonsense: the only
industries which give a damn about what the IEAust thinks are those who
employ a large number of persons who are members of the IEAust. In the main
nobody cares. What industry and society does care about is technical
competence, and it cares about the proper assessment of technical
competence. But we have one organisation in Australia which has a strangle
hold on qualifications: it only promotes engineers. It gives scant attention
to engineering associates and engineering technologists. Why did the IEAust
absorb the institute of engineering associates, then then existence of such
almost disappears? It most definitely was not to build a solid foundation
for the practice and application of engineering science. It has been most
definitely to promote the B.Eng over and above any other educational
For it is not just engineering associates that the IEAust attacks and
insults, it is also scientists and applied scientists. Apparently our
civilisation is dependent on persons with a B.Eng, we have to say that,
because B.Eng is their definition of engineer, and don't want to confuse
that with the publics definition of engineer. Telford was an engineer: not
because he designed and built bridges, but because he operated at the
frontiers of science and technology: he did not have a B.Eng. Neither did
the vast majority of people who made things happen. If we were dependent on
persons with a B.Eng for our civilisation then we would still be stuck up
trees eating bannanas.
The academic study programme of a B.Eng fails to impart the necessary
knowledge required to deal competently with established technologies. For
Telford and Navier bridges were a scientific and technological frontier, in
the modern world, they are not, and failure of bridges either in operation
or during construction is unacceptable: if within the realms of the
established science and technology to avoid such failures. Most recent
failures could have been avoided if the technical competence of those
responsible for design, regulator approval, and construction supervision was
properly asessed. The IEAust is failing to carry out this assessment.
I therefore contend that it is necessary for the Federal government, to
implement a dynamically adaptive register of approved persons. I will
describe this in detail at some point in the future.
In simplest terms, in the first instance anyone routinely operating in a
given area of practice can be registered and become approved persons (AP).
Regulatory authorities only accept documented proposals reviewed and
endorsed by persons (AP's) on the register. If the proposal is severly
defective, then the AP risks being struck from the register. Being struck
from the register doesn't stop the person from practicing in the area of
practice, it just means that they can no longer endorse their own work, they
have to turn to a more suitably qualified person: someone who is registered
as an AP. Thus whilst more challenging work may flow in their direction,
they have a vested interest in seeking the services of more suitably
qualified AP to review and endorse their work than to do so themselves. This
in turn has the potential to keep costs of supply realistic. Simply projects
can be tackled at low cost, using efficient resources: for example drafters
instead of architects, or salespeople instead of drafters. But as the
project gets more complicated, and people attempt to by pass the
complexities of design and simply get a drawing passed by a regulator, the
cost of supply is pushed up because they will have to pay for the services
of a suitably qualified AP. If an unsuitably qualified AP attempts to go
through the regulator, they will be removed from the project, and risk being
removed from the register. Once removed from the project, a suitably
qualified AP will have to be found and their fees paid. The original AP
could be fined, but I generally don't support such penalties. I prefer a
system which reinforces positive behaviour rather than punishes negative:
how to achieve that I haven't quite figured. However as long as people know
their limitations they will remain registered. Those that don't know their
limitations will cease to be registered. After initiation getting on the
register is dependent on being able to complete work with little revision
demanded by an AP. In other words a portfolio of worked endorsed by an AP
and approved by regulator becomes qualification for being on register. The
person has past work as example of what is expected from them, so they have
to stick to that and improve upon if they are to remain registered. So they
can save themselves some time with review and endorsement of routine and
familiar work, by doing themselves, but for more complex work encouraged to
get another to act as AP. Even if the AP is suitably qualified and
experienced it is still beneficial to get another AP to review and endorse
the more complex projects rather than rely on own ability under the
pressures of the project. That is design can go round in many circles, get
an other to look at final proposal to check that didn't miss assessment of
some characterisic in the final cycle can help avoid mistakes and future
We need quality robust control systems based on the AQF and the needs of
specific industries, not the desires of professions. It is not just in
design and engineering, it is across all areas of society where by
membership of a profession is taking precedence over actual needs of
society. People are wasting time in education and training programmes that
are not necessary and at the same time failing to acquire the knowledge and
training that they do require.
It needs to stop!