From 1 July this year, NSW and Victoria took a significant step toward strengthening the engineering profession with the implementation of mandatory registration for professional engineers.
The states now join Queensland as the only jurisdictions where registration is required. Engineers Australia is an assessment entity for the registration eligibility in Queensland and Victoria, and is supporting NSW with its implementation. Engineers Australia has been advocating for compulsory registration for decades.
Bernadette Foley, General Manager of Professional Standards at Engineers Australia, said the registration schemes serve to lift professional standards and increase consumer confidence.
“The real value of engineering registration is in giving customers the confidence that the person they’ve engaged to do some work is appropriately qualified to do it,” she said.
“Also, if issues arise there is a mechanism for investigating substandard work and sanctioning registered engineers or even removing their registered status.
“Prior to the legislation being passed in NSW, for instance, any individual without formal qualifications could undertake engineering work in the state. Registration is one amongst several initiatives being used to increase community confidence in the industries that rely on engineers.”
Engineers registration requirements across the states
The registration schemes differ in scope across jurisdictions. For instance, mandatory registration in Queensland, which has been in place for 90 years, applies to all areas of engineering. In Victoria, registration applies to fire safety, civil, structural, electrical and mechanical engineering. In Victoria, registration is initially for professional engineers who practise in, or who want to apply for registration to practise in the building sector. It is being phased in for other sectors over the next few years.
Registration requirements in NSW apply to electrical, civil, geotechnical, structural, fire safety or mechanical engineers who are working on a building with a Class 2 component, which are typically multi-storey residential buildings where people live above and below each other.
“In NSW, the relevant Act allows for the scope of registration to be very broad, but the Government used the Regulations to reduce it to just Class 2 multi-residential buildings,” Foley said. “Engineers Australia is working with the Government, however, to seek re-expansion of the scope over time.”
In Queensland and Victoria, registration requires an assessment of eligibility.
An assessment entity like Engineers Australia assesses an individual’s qualifications, years of experience and competency, ensures eligibility requirements are met and issues an eligibility letter.
“An individual needs to demonstrate that they have qualifications and engineering experience,” Foley said.
“They need a detailed CV, referees and they’ll undergo an interview. If you’re a Chartered engineer in Queensland or Victoria, however, we can provide you with that eligibility letter very simply and you’re not required to undergo another assessment. This eligibility letter is then used to apply to the relevant government agency. Those working in the Victorian building sector also require a building endorsement.”
In NSW, however, there are three proposed assessment pathways for registration.
“Pathway One is in play at the moment,” Foley said. “If you have a Washington Accord Degree, the NSW Government does the assessment of the qualifications and experience. If you don’t have a Washington Accord degree, or you’ve got a pre-1989 degree, the Government is accepting assessments by Engineers Australia, and we are the only professional body that is doing those assessments.”
Foley added that there is a requirement in NSW for engineers to have at least two years of Australian experience to be eligible for registrations.
“If you don’t have those years of Australian experience, but you have more than five years of relevant international experience, Engineers Australia can assess it to see whether it’s similar enough to be considered,” she said.
Foley explained that Pathway Two for registration in NSW will be similar to the Queensland and Victorian approach, in that a professional body undertakes assessments on behalf of the state.
“Pathway Three is still some way off and would apply to engineers who are members of a professional body that has what’s referred to as a Professional Standards Scheme,” she said.
Strengthening the industry
Assessment and registration fees vary across qualifications and states.
“Victoria, for example, if you’re a member of Engineers Australia and a Chartered engineer, assessment is not really going to cost you anything, because you can use your Chartered engineer status to generate an eligibility letter, but there is a registration fee,” Foley said.
She added that compulsory registration lifts the standards of the profession, however a national standard for registration would be welcome.
“Under the Mutual Recognition Act, if you are registered in one jurisdiction and go to another for the same occupation, you don’t need additional assessments,” Foley said. “There are some complications to this, however, as the jurisdictions have different definitions for areas of engineering and for scope of engineering work.”
Foley said Engineers Australia welcomed compulsory registration for engineers.
“Registration certainly improves the status of individuals within the industry and the public knows that if an engineer is registered, they’ve gone through a process of assessment,” she said.
“Ideally, there would be more similarities between the registration schemes across the states than what there is at the moment, and we are working behind the scenes to improve cross-border recognition. But this is a positive step in strengthening the industry.”
So an engineer working across multiple jurisdictions can readily get the registrations recognised in each state, but will need to pay registration in each state? All to design (in the case of buildings) to the same set of codes nominated in the NCC. The inmates are running the asylum.
Surely a national registration scheme (NER??) is the way to go, rather than a separate state-based approach. For those of us who work on projects in multiple states, we will have to pay for registration in NSW & Victoria now, as well as Queensland – on top of EngAust membership. This just feels like a revenue grab, with a motherhood statement about lifting “professional standards” and increasing “consumer confidence” used as a thin justification.
Looks like a dogs breakfast has been created. Not sure we should be trumpeting this as a wonderful result for the profession. Why can’t listing on the NER be accepted by various state legislation as meeting the requirement without further showing?
With the NSW registration, the class 2 buildings are as well a small residential houses with granny flat below. I have plenty of clients having this type of domestic arrangement. I am registered on NER, over 15 years experience in civil/structural engineering, not registered for class 2. As such, I can not help my client with 3 x 1m extension of their deck 2m above ground sitting on rock, which was previously designed by me prior 01/07/2021.
The NSW government should follow the intent of the legislation , which was to protect unit owners in residential blocks against doggy developers and not to cause pain to owners of residential R2 houses.
What does the expansion of mandatory engineers registration mean for me Susan Muldowney?
It makes me deeply concerned that EA in fact has become Engineering Education Australia (EEA) and is no longer working in the interests of engineers.
It is often enlightening to follow the money in situations such as this and every engineer should be asking firstly, who will profit mostly by the furthering mandatory engineer registration and secondly, whether EA has been captured by the education industry.
Perhaps it would be more in the interests of engineers if EA focussed firstly on simplifying the alphabet soup of the different state legislation and duplicate costs by promoting the NER as the single federal national registration body before further disfranchising the non-chartered engineers amongst us by devising new ways of marketing their courses via legislation.
”we welcome you being forced to pay us for membership, for your own good, of course”
We are working behind the scenes to make it mandatory that everyone in all states pay us an additional fee. Eventually everyone will pay us and fall in line or we will prevent you from working in the career that you have devoted your entire life to, work hard at every day and cherish.
Revenue grabbing is all I can see as the outcome here. The real problems with shoddy design are being corrected by insurance agencies and the like no doubt through policed policies, etc. Government authorities are too keen to create more red tape and fees without treating the root cause of most matters. We now have NSW Health inventing another way to fleece the poor engineers – implementation of a so-called contractors management scheme (which has been ‘sold’ to the industry by the Barrington Group via Smartek. Cost to a sole trader = $200/annum !