Monday, February 11, 2019

No Professional Cult Should be Permitted to Dictate A Person's Occupation

I part found what I was looking for, the article:

A Short History of Professional Engineers in Australia
by Dr. Brian E. Lloyd, AM, HonFIEAust. {I don't have a formal copy of the article, but last time I found it I copy/pasted it into a text file. The website now seems to be dead.}

Though what I was actually looking for maybe in the longer article: Engineering in Australia: A Professional Ethos. Any way the quotes are from the first article.

Specifically, in the 1990s, the drive that arose within labour unions for competency-based recognition as an engineer, without qualifications, could not have occurred. There would have been no need, therefore, for the protective measure of admitting Engineering Technologists and Engineering Associates to membership. But let us return the narrative of our actual professional evolution.
What does without qualification mean? What is a qualification, if not recognition of competence?

The Charter defined the Objects and Purpose, and the Powers, of the Institution, in regard to the primary purposes relating to recognition and professional status, in the following clauses: 
4. The other objects and purposes of The Institution are:
(a) To raise the character and status and advance the interests of the profession of engineering and those engaged therein.
(b) To maintain contact and communicate with the governments of the Commonwealth of Australia and of its States and Territories and with local and municipal governing bodies and other public and private organisations on matters of concern to engineers, and to the engineering profession and to the wider community.
(c) To increase the confidence of the community in the employment of engineers by admitting to The Institution only such persons as shall have satisfied the Council of The Institution that they have an adequate knowledge of both the theory and practice of engineering.
(d) To promote honourable practice and repress malpractice and to settle disputed points of practice and to decide all questions of professional usage and etiquette affecting members of The Institution.
5. The Institution shall have the following powers:
(a) To encourage the study of engineering and to improve and elevate the general professional and technical knowledge of persons engaged or intending to engage in the profession of engineering and for such purposes to test by examination or otherwise the competence of such persons and to donate on such terms and conditions as may from time to time be prescribed prizes or other awards or distinctions and grant certificates and institute and establish scholarships grants and other benefactions.
Interesting I haven't noticed the institution do any of that. I reiterate, my viewpoint, the Institution of Engineers Australia, the trading company Engineer Australia, is not a learned society, or otherwise can only be considered the world's most useless learned society.
There is no truth in the myth that the Institution did not want to engage in the ‘dirty
business’ of industrial relations. It was legalities that prevented the Institution from pursuing that objective: as a body of both employees and employers, the Institution could not be registered as an association of employees before the Commission.
In 1946, the leaders of the Institution fostered the formation of the new body, the Association of Professional Engineers, Australia (APEA), and they gave unstinting support to the quest for status and reward for employee engineer members. It was a long road to success.
Interesting, yet the institution is still confused and operates more like a trade union, demanding closed shops than fulfilling the functions of a  learned society.
Mr Newlands explained that the case could not be based simply upon defining a profession on the basis of functions performed. That had been tried in the USA in the 1950s, when the Taft Hartley Act was intended to protect the professionally qualified people by defining a profession in terms of functions performed by members. But the US courts held that if a person, qualified or not, could demonstrate performance of even limited professional functions, they had to be accorded professional status.
Professional status is not the issue. Competence to do the job, that needs doing, is the issue. If the professional cult requires a fake honours degree, no problem with that, if you want to join the cult then that's what you have to have. However, membership of a professional cult does not equate to competence to do the work that society needs doing.

A four year degree is not required to be able to use applied mechanics and design structures to be fit for purpose. A bachelor degree isn't required to design machines, HVAC systems, or electrical devices. I'm not talking about trivial calculations in manufacturers catalogues to select components, I'm talking about using technical science to evaluate fitness-for-function.

The equation M=WL/8 is a trite calculation, and to spend a 40 year career stuffing numbers through such formula is not engineering. An engineering associate can use such formula, they can also derive it from first principles, including formula such as M=wL^2/12 for indeterminate beam. If they can't then they are not engineering associates.

Many years back, I was at a chartered status introductory meeting. A person who may have been an engineering associate asked if they needed to be able to design a concrete column. My view was, well it's part of your formal education, so yes, if you are structural. I didn't say anything. The presenter indicated it depended on area of practice.

Engineering Associates can design, roads, stormwater drainage systems, HVAC systems and electrical systems for buildings. Associate Technologist maybe a better name, as they are dealing directly with specific technologies. Much of the design is a drafting exercise. Much of design is also a documentation exercise. Engineering Associates tend to work on projects where the bulk of design is on a "drawing board", and it is necessary to move back and forth between drawing and calculation. I don't know what use a structural engineer is, that doesn't work on a drawing board: I wouldn't hire them. (eg. Bolts don't fit in flange of  steel beam. Too much steel reinforcement in cage to actually get concrete in to form a reinforced concrete beam)

The High Court of Australia and the Professional Engineers Case (1959-61) established the principle of definition by qualification: a Professional Engineer is one who possesses a qualification recognised by the Institution, as the prerequisite for the performance of professional engineering work.
If engineering is, work which can only be done by the professional engineer, then I don't have a problem. If engineering is everything that a professional engineer does, then I have a problem. The Queensland legislation is a problem, and hindering largely because it does not contain an acceptable definition of engineering.

Many keep complaining that engineering has become commoditized. It has not, the stuff that has become commoditized is not engineering. Adapting established technologies for a specific purpose applying scientific principles is not engineering. It is technical design.

Engineering takes place where we do not have an established body of technical science, do not have an established technology. Engineering is a high risk activity, making decisions in the face of extremely incomplete knowledge, with highly uncertain outcomes: but not by wild guessing.

Therefore we need to be clear that designing a beam is not engineering, designing a building is not engineering. The engineering begins when the literature doesn't provide an answer, and we have to do experiments/testing for reasons more than simply to collect data. Determining the breaking load of a structural connection is not engineering. It is just applied science, and can be done by technicians.

Have the profession, have the status, be elitist. But don't claim something is engineering because you have deficient education and believe you are the only subspecies of humanity that can do the work.

By 1989, the number of engineers of working age in Australia was just over 92,000, while membership of the Institution had fallen to less than 37 per cent of that number. Engineering academics and the Institution were failing to project an image of value to engineering graduates.
As before, Engineers Australia is a poor quality learned society. Membership is expensive and it provides no learned value. Most professional engineers working for large organisations would have little problem paying the fees. But owner operators of small consultancies would consider otherwise. More importantly though, afford it or not, it has to have value, and if looking for a learned society then it has no value.

A learned society is the guardian of a body of knowledge, it provides focal point for discussion of actual practice and problems met in practice. It is not a discussion group for industrial relations problems and issues of status and prestige. Its task is to ensure a body of knowledge is understood and put to proper use.

There was no ambiguity as to professional occupational identity, and well-designed educational provisions were in place for the para-professional occupations of the engineering work force. At that time, any idea of combining professional engineers and engineering technical officers and drafting officers within a ‘profession of engineering’ would have been treated as a sick joke, perpetrated by people having no grasp of the path travelled by the Profession of Engineering in the previous 40 years.
Yes, well in that 40 years you should have defined engineering without reference to the word engineer. You still haven't got adequate definition of engineering. So an engineer meets the educational requirements of the WFEO Washington accord. So what? It doesn't make everything they do engineering.

The achievement of a well-recognised professional status came with change in attitudes to collective representation. When everyone has a degree denoting professional status, sight is lost of a need for a qualifying association. Today, well-paid engineers consider that an engineering degree and a good curriculum vitae do not need an added hallmark of Institution membership. The Institution now is confined to functions that most engineers ignore: learned society functions, accrediting degree courses and hallmarking for Chartered status. By 1999, out of a Professional Engineering Labour Force of some 138,000 engineers of working age in Australia, only 38,000, or 28 per cent, were members of the Institution. In the absence of any overt action to promote and defend the occupational identity and professional status, Professional Engineers at large saw no value in membership.
But it doesn't perform the functions of a learned society. That which it does do, is not anywhere near good enough.

The ideal of collective representation came under additional pressure in the era of economic rationalism, individualism and competition. In the evolution of social change, first came deengineering, as exemplified in local government: the well-known engineering identity of the Shire Engineer was transformed into ‘manager of technical services’, implying that engineering was a secondary feature and that a professional engineer was not necessarily required. Towards the end of the 1980s, the major engineering employers were the public works departments, electricity commissions, roads and water authorities, and similar public sector engineering organisations.  However, all soon were dismantled or reduced to shadows. Even as early 1990, a notable feature was the large number of engineers self-described as sole practitioner consultants, the results of public-sector ‘reform’, as outcomes of ‘downsizing’, ‘outplacement’ and early retirement.
Once again, they don't know what engineering is, hence the task at hand gets done by a manager. The technology exists its been implemented, it's there, its working. It doesn't need engineers to invent it, it doesn't need engineers to figure out how science can determine if a proposal is  fit-for-function. We now have the technologies and we know what the science is, and how to apply it to the technology, the engineering is over. Last year's engineer is this years technician. The task is now to apply, adapt, operate, manage and maintain. Irrespective of the title on your degrees you are not doing engineering: you are not engineers.

Another politically correct ideology also arose. In the early 1990s the Institution had to
combat the metals unions and the Commonwealth Public Service against a doctrine of irrelevance of education to occupational competence. In response we took control of the educational and competency definition of the Professional Engineers, Engineering Technologists and Engineering Associates, by creating carefully defined Institution membership grades. We defeated the competency ideology. We protected the professional identity of engineers. By the end of the 1990s, even in the new circumstances of social change, the Profession of Engineering was in as good a shape as it could be. But then the white ants began to gnaw.
They protected the identify of professional engineers maybe, but crippled our technical workforce, with confusion. They didn't create an identity for engineering associates, they created an identity for engineering officers. A thing no one in industry had heard about before.
A new factor arose in the 1990s: a restructuring of the leadership of the Institution according to the ideology of business: the Council was reduced from a widely representative body to a small number, who soon forgot that the core ‘business’ the Institution remained as promotion and protection of the interests of professional engineers.
QED. Not a learned society. A rum corp, a professional cult.

In 2005 our forgetful leaders became intent upon a redefinition of the Profession of
Engineering as including technical officers, the para-professionals with 2-year TAFE diplomas, the academic equivalent of about one year of degree studies. They were forestalled by the vote of Corporate Members, but their intentions remain. The present leaders of the Institution are prepared to flout the will of members, as it was clearly expressed in 2005, and they ignore the Charter of the Institution. How is it possible to support the idea that a person with a 2-year TAFE diploma could be a member of the Profession of Engineering? The proposition is ludicrous.
This is arrogant garbage. The profession was not and has not been redefined. Engineering associates are not professional engineers, engineering technologists are not professional engineers. None of them carry out the task that is professional engineering.

The problem is the professional engineers are not performing professional engineering, because they cannot properly define engineering. If the engineering technologist can do the work, it is not professional engineering. If the engineering associate can perform the work it is not professional engineering. If you have the 4 year degree, do something that requires the degree, something which only a person with such degree can do. Or simply accept that you are not engineers, that your education alone does not make you an engineer.

And a 2 year TAFE diploma is not the academic equivalent of about 1 year of a degree. They don't understand the AQF, and have made no real effort to properly articulate qualifications.

A certificate I is not a 1 week program to avoid tripping up over your own boot laces and falling in a ditch. A certificate I qualification is defined relative to an area of practice, an area of competency, relative to an occupation or vocation.

There has been a split in the AQF, such that at level 6, an Advanced Diploma is considered lower status than an Associate Degree. Nonetheless, both an Advanced Diploma and an Associate Degree will typically grant status to 2 years of a 3 year or 4 year bachelor degree. Though they are not properly designed to properly articulate from one level to the other.

By 2009, out of a Professional Engineering Labour Force of some 189,000 engineers of
working age in Australia, just under 38,000, or 20 per cent, are members of the Institution. The remaining 4 out of 5 Professional Engineers at large see no value in membership. If the intended debasement of the ‘Profession’ succeeds, and engineers at large realise that their professional status has been undermined by the Institution, their indifference is likely to be replaced by hostility.
Once again, the institution is not a learned society, it has no value. It became a full trading company, it sells MIEAust, CP.Eng and NER credentials irrespective of whether it is indirect. Legislation would provide legitimacy to such sales, where none should exist.

If the profession has been debased it is because they are not doing engineering and do not know what engineering is.

When we see such views espoused by our current leaders, we are witnessing rejection of the 90 years of professional heritage. In their view, what we created was a waste of time.
Unless the Institution can regain its primary purpose, in representing and protecting the
professional status of Professional Engineers, it has no relevant future.
In this, our 90th year, if engineers at large no longer see value in a clear professional identity, and no value in the interdependence denoted by membership of their professional Institution, the professional ethos is dissipated among isolated individuals. We no longer have a Profession. Can we hope for a resurgence of professional consciousness before our centenary?
I do believe that 2019 is the centenary, thats this year. The function is not to protect the professional status of engineers, it is to be a learned society, to be guardian of a body of knowledge, to extend the existing body of knowledge, to ensure that body of knowledge is applied correctly.

If professional engineers want improved status then they should do professional engineering, and not do the work of engineering associates. Furthermore they shouldn't be diminishing the status of engineering associates to drafters, so that professional engineers can then falsely claim the work they are doing is professional engineering. If want the status of professional engineer, then do professional engineering, put that 4 year degree to work: or shut up.

So I suggest engineering associates regain control over their occupation, starting by scrapping the engineering officer title and the traditional title and adopting a new title: Associate Technologist. The work you do is technical design. Sure a professional engineer can do it, or should be able to do it, but it is not professional engineering.

The word engineer and engineering needs to be ripped from legislation. We need to make it clear what technical design is, and how it differs from engineering. It needs to be made clear what an Associate Technologist controls, and why a professional engineer needs to back off and stay out off the way. But also need to make clear when the professional engineer takes control.

However, it should be clear that the education of all persons is inadequate, and all people need both a greater depth and breadth of knowledge. Because bean counting technicians the likes of professional engineers have been making a mess of society, and they need to be stopped.

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[11/02/2019] : Original