A comparison of engineering licensure and regulation in the United States and Canada reveal critical differences between the two countries. Nonetheless, the licensure and regulation between the two countries converge at the point where government intervention in the profession offer some level of autonomy for engineers in their duty to promote public welfare and consumer protection. It has to be noted that privileges given to engineers in Canada present tremendous responsibility to the players. Besides, state regulation and licensure in the United States gives the state the watchdog powers to oversee the operations of individual engineers and corporate entities involved in public works related to engineering (Black 103). This essay establishes the nuances between self-regulation in Canada and State regulation and licensure in the United States in the purview of protecting public welfare and consumer protection.
Protection of Public Welfare in engineering
The essence of regulations, whether self or state, is to maximize public welfare and protect the public against potential threats and hazards caused by engineering works. More importantly, the maximization of welfare is promoted by professional conduct and standards, which are an embodiment of professional and consumer protection standards. The existence of professional standards guiding engineers gives them a wider obligation and responsibility to ensure that their actions and activities have the public at heart. Both Canada and the United States have nearly common engineering guiding principles and ethical standards. In Canada, though, the professional ethical standards are designed on provincial statutes and provincial institutional regulations; however, the Canadian Academy of Engineering has made several recommendations to the engineering regulating body to have the regulations standardized in order to achieve greater protection of public interests. In the U.S, luckily, the regulations are codified for national purposes; however, different states are allowed to customize the regulations and licensure to fit local circumstances. All the same, the regulations are intended to ensure that professional hold paramount the health, safety, and welfare of the public in all endeavors and, more importantly, execute duty and offer services in their areas of competence. Further, any statements issued by engineers are expected to be truthful and objective and uphold high levels of faithfulness to agents and clients. Further, as a way of promoting public welfare, it is required that judgments of engineers are overruled in instances where the life and property of the public are in danger. All these requirements are meant to ensure that activities undertaken by engineers do not endanger lives nor demean public welfare, which explains why regulation is important (Vohs & Baumeister 27).
Self-regulation in Canada
The responsibility for licensure and regulation of engineers is established from a provincial statute giving powers to the 12 territorial regulation bodies in the Canadian provinces such as Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), Geoscientists of British Columbia and Association of Professional Engineers. In collaboration, the bodies work together to oversee the regulation and licensure of over 160,000 registered engineers in Canada. The pursuit for regulation is coordinated by an umbrella body known as Engineers Canada, which was formed in 1963 with the mandate of developing programs for satellite members and coordinate guidelines and policies on behalf of the profession (Black 105).
Ideally, Engineers Canada has an oversight role over the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board responsible for assessing engineering programs and developing required academic preparations and qualifications for the profession.
In Canada, the powers to self-regulate are bestowed by the provincial governments in cognizance of the fact that the profession is ultimately effective when the individual provinces regulate engineers for the best interests of the public welfare. In particular, the 12 provincial licensure bodies are expected to fulfill their mandate by putting in place high standards of engineering education and practice, upholding tight requirements for entry in the profession, undertaking disciplinary action against engineers who flout engineering ethical standards and conducts and, more importantly, protect the profession against misuse of the title “engineer” by unscrupulous individuals (Freeman & Goroff 34).
Additionally, each of the licensure and regulation bodies has the obligation and mandate to conduct itself by drawing guidance from the provincial engineering act. While there are disparities of regulations from one province to the other, the provincial engineering Acts creates the scope of the profession and proscribes the misuse of the profession’s titles. It has to be noted that the self-regulation principle did not cascade from the central government to the lower levels rather provincial statutes like the Ontario Professional Engineers Act established the principle. The benefit is that the right to self-regulate makes engineers commit themselves to fostering public interest in priority to self-interest. The self-regulation concept is an advantage to both the public and the professionals: it makes engineers acquire professional status and significant control for the future of the profession, while the public gains the reassurance that the public works shall be undertaken by competent professionals. Further, the Canadian quality of engineering works stands out above many other countries in the world (Shuman, Mary and Jack 42).
Emphasis has to be made that professional self-regulation does not necessarily refer to individual engineers enjoying an excessive capacity for making decisions on how to regulate based on their individual discretions. Rather, it is a contract with the public that requires the engineers to uphold an organization that creates and enforces valuable standards of admitting new members and practicing professional conduct. Licensed members are expected to contribute their time and resources to the creation of standards and adherence to those regulations in their daily operations. Members have the discretion to participate in leadership and governance in the organization, but at the same time, they are under the regulation to deliver optimal benefits to the public and the profession. Further, members are expected to submit reports to the regulatory body regarding the scope of the practice, strategy for improving the profession and mitigation of risks in the pursuit to protect public welfare. The reports and other data are essential in maintaining public confidence and regulating the body (John & Hammond 44).
As opposed to the Canadian model, the United States engineering profession is regulated by licensure boards, which fall under state departments. The state licensure boards are overseen by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), a national regulatory body established in 1920. NCEES is headquartered in Clemson, North Carolina, whose mandate is to coordinate the interstate regulation and licensing of engineers from different states. But importantly, it helps to resolve cases and challenges facing engineers who wish to transfer their services to another state or change membership to another state. NCEES has a huge membership due to the high number of state boards and jurisdiction of states in the U.S. Besides, licensing and regulating engineers, the council ensures that consultants do not acquire the status of engineers. Further, each of the state boards is required to receive complaints, investigate and discipline incompetent engineers and those found to offer substandard services (Freeman & Goroff 29).
The main objective of NCEES is chiefly to offer leadership in the professional regulation and licensure of land surveyors and engineers, working towards ensuring standard laws in licensure, promoting professional ethics, fostering public safety, health and welfare and help in shaping the future of the profession. Additionally, the body helps other state agencies to promote regulations with the aim of demonstrating high levels of standards, competencies, knowledge and professional conduct and development. In these pursuits, the organization seeks to ensure that national rules and policies are consistent and uniform across all the states.
Notably, regulations and policies of each member state mirror those of the NCEES rules and laws; though, different states may customize the laws to fit the local engineering circumstances. Despite those miniature differences that may be experienced from one state to the other, the acquisition of engineering licenses in the United States is uniform and follows four distinct process, which include graduation from an accredited Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), completion and success of a fundamental engineering test, acquisition of work experience as required by the state licensing body and completion of the practice and principles of engineers exam (John & Hammond 47).
Distinct differences between Licensure and regulation in U.S and Canada
In Canada, regulations are aimed at protecting the public, promoting safety and enhancing service delivery. On the contrary, in the U.S, regulation is aimed at regulating the individual professionals. In instances where there is potential harm to the public, the individual engineer is disqualified. Secondly, Canadian model involves self-regulations, while that of the U.S is state regulated subject to significant amounts of state legislations and political meddling. As opposed to U.S where the NCEES coordinates all the interstate regulatory and licensure processes, promotion of uniform policies and ensuring continuity of the profession’s competence, in Canada, the issue is different because Engineers Canada only creates new programs and ensures coordination of guidelines and policies in the place of the profession. In terms of licensing and regulatory authority, Canada depends on 12 territorial regulators; while the U.S uses state regulatory and licensing bodies to oversee and develop model laws, which are then replicated the different states. Additionally, accreditation is conducted by Canadian Accreditation Board (CEAB) in Canada, while in the U.S, accreditation is conducted by ABET. Finally, accreditation in Canada is founded on the professional Engineers Act, which gives the professional bodies power to self-regulate; however, in the U.S, each of the jurisdiction and states possesses powers to regulate engineers.
Defense for my position
My position is that the Canadian self-regulatory mechanism is advantageous over the state regulation of the engineering profession. In particular, self-regulation gives the public more benefits in terms of public safety and welfare. While proponents of state regulation argue that it aims at reducing public risk, it has to be noted that overregulation is potentially risky to both the public and the professional growth of the engineers. Unnecessary and inefficient regulations supported by the state regulation model increases production costs for architects and engineers, costs that are eventually borne by the consumers. Naturally, state regulation is meant to reduce harm to the public; however, the efforts may inadvertently bring forth impediments to innovation and competitiveness. For these reasons, self-regulation becomes more efficient for engineers, where the cost savings and innovations are cascaded down to the public. More importantly, policy making, enforcement, monitoring, and remediation processes take shorter time under self-regulation than in state-regulated environments, where bureaucracy is rife.
Finally, self-regulation removes information asymmetry for both the public and engineers because the professional bodies can easily evaluate compliance procedures and increase levels of transparency in the monitoring of activities and enforcement of disciplinary actions. On the contrary, state regulations are rigid, sometimes disruptive and gradual.
Black, Julia. "Decentring Regulation: Understanding the Role of Regulation and Self-Regulation in a'Post-Regulatory'World." Current legal problems 54.1 (2001): 103.
Vohs, Kathleen D., and Roy F. Baumeister. Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications. Guilford Publications, 2016.
Shuman, Larry J., Mary Besterfield‐Sacre, and Jack McGourty. "The ABET “professional skills”—Can they be taught? Can they be assessed?." Journal of engineering education 94.1 (2005): 41-55.
Freeman, Richard B., and Daniel L. Goroff, eds. Science and engineering careers in the United States: An analysis of markets and employment. University of Chicago Press, 2009.
John, Walton C., and H. P. Hammond. "Graduate Work in Engineering in Universities and Colleges in the United States. Bulletin, 1936, No. 8." Office of Education, United States Department of the Interior (1936).