One year after New South Wales and Victoria adopted engineer registration schemes, create looks back at what has been accomplished and what remains to be done.
It has been almost a year since mandatory registration for professional engineers was introduced in New South Wales and Victoria.
The change aimed to enhance public safety, lift consumer protection, and increase the integrity of the engineering industry.
Engineers Australia has been advocating for statutory registration of engineers for the past two decades. The schemes in NSW and Victoria represent a positive move for both the industry and the community, and other states and territories continue to push for change.
“In Victoria and NSW, there is now a very clear signal that to be a professional engineer, there are some key requirements,” said Engineers Australia’s Chief Engineer Jane MacMaster FIEAust CPEng.
“This includes the need to have recognised education, experience and competence as a professional engineer, to undertake continuing professional development, and to comply to a code of ethics.”
Advocate and engage
Mandatory registration has been in place in Queensland for more than 90 years, where it applies to all areas of engineering. In Victoria, it applies to fire safety, civil, structural, electrical and mechanical engineering.
Registration is initially for professional engineers in the state who practise in the building sector. It is also being phased in for other sectors over the next few years.
Alesha Printz FIEAust CPEng, General Manager of Engineers Australia in Victoria, said a key success is the extent to which advocacy has shaped the legislation.
“We had a lot of conversations with government and regularly spoke with our members to get their feedback, which we were able to feed back into the process,” she says.
“A lot of our input was taken on board in the development of the legislation. Victorian Chief Engineer Luke Belfield was one of the key government stakeholders involved in leading that process, and that meant that there was a good engineering understanding within the implementation.”
Printz says that doesn’t mean the scheme is perfect.
“For instance, we would love to see the legislation have a greater focus on delivering community benefits,” she said.
“There will be a review of the scheme in two years, but we are coming from a good starting place.”
Setting higher standards
In NSW, registration requirements apply to civil, geotechnical, electrical, structural, fire safety and mechanical engineers who are working on a building with a Class 2 component.
These are typically multi-storey residential buildings where people live above and below each other.
Lyal Douglas FIEAust CPEng, Manager of Engineering Capability, said that prior to the registration, anyone in NSW or Victoria could call themselves a professional engineer.
“Mandatory registration firmly instils in the minds of engineers that they need to meet certain competency standards,” said Douglas.
“For many years, it was possible for people to deliver a professional engineering service without having an engineering degree, but since this legislation was introduced, people understand that, if they wish to practise as a professional engineer, they will need to have an engineering degree.
“In Australia, a four-year accredited Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree is the typical pathway for school-leavers.”
Engineers like Nick Tassigiannakis FIEAust agree. The Managing Director of Bridgeford Group, a multi-disciplinary renewable energy, building services engineering and energy efficiency consultancy, Tassigiannakis says the registration scheme has raised consumer awareness about the importance of seeking engineers who are registered — not just ones who can do the job.
“An example of this is in the case of our specific field,” he said.
“Although the fundamentals of mechanical engineering are the same for all mechanical engineers, knowledge of the National Construction Code, proven competency in this area, and then seeking the additional requirement for building endorsement to your registration, sets a bar for which engineers must meet, and provides a level of comfort for the community.”
Progress toward mandatory engineering registration varies across the country. However, MacMaster said Engineers Australia would welcome a national registration system.
“Importantly, we should be progressing automatic mutual registration so that we have a cohesive national system,” she said.
“We want to avoid a situation where every state and territory has different requirements and expectations. That would be difficult for engineers and engineering organisations to navigate and would be likely to increase administrative and cost overheads to manage being registered in different jurisdictions.”
MacMaster said Engineers Australia also advocates expanding the current registration scheme in Victoria and New South Wales to cover all areas of engineering in all industry sectors.
“The past year has gone very quickly, and we enjoyed working with government in helping them establish their registration schemes in Victoria and NSW,” she said. “We’re looking forward to doing the same with other jurisdictions.”