Letters to the editor

January 2009 » Letters
Readers express their opinions about use of data from extreme storms for design and continuing education requirements for civil engineers and surveyors.

I appreciate Duane Barrett, P.E.’s concern for the safety of the public from frequent and extreme flood hazards ("Extreme Storms: What do we do with the ’big ones?," November 2008) and agree that the public should be informed about historic extreme flooding events in areas they reside in. However, Barrett made the argument that individual historical storms are not typically analyzed in connection with Flood Insurance Studies (FIS). I have read numerous FISs that document the flooding damage and extents of historic storms. Having conducted a number of such hydrologic and hydraulic studies associated with FISs myself, I can say that historic flood events are one of the best tools we have for calibration of discharge and water surface profile estimates determined from hydrologic/hydraulic modeling and/or statistical analysis using stream gage data. FEMA’s Guidelines and Specifications for Flood Hazard Mapping Partners, April 2003, lists estimating regulatory discharges with a floodflow-frequency analysis from gage data before conducting a rainfall-runoff hydrologic model. Both statistical flood-flow-frequency analysis and rainfall runoff hydrologic modeling use historic stream flow or rainfall data.

Rob Lyons, P.E., CFM

Continuing education
We received many letters in response to Alfred R. Pagan, P.E.’s November 2008 column, "No longer an L.S." We also requested readers’ opinions on the topic: What are the important elements of effective continuing education? What has been the most useful and effective training you’ve received during your career? How could (should) licensure and continuing education requirements be restructured to ensure that knowledge and skills of practicing engineers and surveyors keep pace with advancements in the fields—or with lessons learned from failures and disasters? Following are responses to Pagan’s column and these questions.

As a registered professional engineer for 40 years and being registered in 49 states and 38 foreign countries, I can tell you my first-hand experience in dealing with continuing education requirements. About half of the U.S. states require it. In most states, it is perfunctory and subject to self-certification and random audit. I have been audited about a half a dozen times this year already and had to produce extensive documentary evidence of my credits.

My major concern is that one can get the required credits without ever having a single credit in the field in which they practice. I have yet to see any evidence that there are any fewer complaints or lawsuits against engineers in states that have these requirements, nor have I seen any evaluation of whether it results in more or [fewer] disciplinary actions, such as suspension or revocation of licenses.

Some states are increasing their renewal fees or adding surcharges to cover their supposed costs of administering these programs. For example, North Dakota charges a separate mandatory $28 fee to cover continuing education, in addition to its $150 renewal fee. Some other states require expensive, time-consuming, and burdensome procedures for getting the necessary credits. However, there is no rational justification for these added costs if the results show no improvement in the practice of the professions.

Unless or until there is responsible evidence that continuing education produces fewer lawsuits and disciplinary actions, I personally oppose it for technical, professional, and financial reasons.

Eur Ing Larry Spielvogel, P.E., CEng, Int P.E. (UK), FASHRAE, FCIBSE, FSLL

PDU classes would not be taken seriously if they were not required in certain states for keeping up with licensure. The true purpose of PDU’s should be to help P.E.s stay sharp in their field so that skills learned when studying and passing the P.E. exam do not erode. The most efficient and cost-effective way to continue licensure in any state is to take an abbreviated P.E. exam developed by NCEES every five years, which would make current P.E.s that are up for renewal stay sharp in their field.

I am studying for my S.E. I exam for the first time and I am finding out that I have forgotten important concepts just because I have not used certain topics in my line of work since I passed the P.E. exam eight years ago. Asking P.E.s to take an abbreviated P.E. test for license renewal every five years will force P.E.s to stay sharp and show the public that we take our profession seriously.

John P. Kozal, P.E.

As an engineer who was once registered in ten states and is now registered in only one, due in large part to the time, money, and effort involved with varying continuing educations requirements, I must agree and support the sentiments and concepts expressed by Pagan in his Nov. 2008 article. Continuing education, at its best, is a means for educators and academia to make a living in a period of declining student population following the baby boomer bubble. At its worst, in most cases it is a waste of time and money. Fortunately, there are some cases in between where it performs as intended. While the concept may have merit, the execution has degenerated into a series of courses taken by engineers to fulfill arbitrary and capricious legal requirements while not increasing their knowledge base in the specific areas where these competent and conscientious engineers practice.

One of the primary truisms of our professions is that as most engineers advance in their careers they become experts and specialists in specific areas of practice. [For example,] graduates join an engineering firm/organization and become apartment house specialists and do not design big city high rises, and big city high rise specialists do not design cooling towers for electrical utilities, et cetera. Yet these specialists are forced by law to take continuing education courses that are in most cases selected based on criteria not related to their area of practice and/or level of expertise. The net result, as Pagan so correctly identified, is time and money spent on continuing education with no significant [return on investment] that is compounded by time and money lost from productive engineering endeavors.

One of my pet peeves is having to take a state-mandated course in that state’s building code. Since all state building codes are adaptations of the same basic building code, these courses typically have identical technical content and degenerate into state addendums that are usually administrative in nature. Since it is the engineer’s professional responsibility to design as per the applicable code and identify any specific unusual technical requirements, these courses become repetitious and usually have very little value-added content.

My recommendation is that a system must be developed that meets these requirements:

  • Courses [should] have personal relevance to an engineer’s area of practice and expertise. If an engineer’s knowledge and expertise exceeds that of the courses offered, continuing education requirements should be waved.
  • Eliminate unique state continuing education requirements. We do not have to take additional courses in the various states to make our degrees certifiable in the various states, so why should we have to take state-specific continuing education requirements?
  • Place continuing education requirements under a national organization with applicability to the various states falling under present professional engineering qualifications and examinations procedures protocol.

Thank you for the opportunity to express my views.

Lawrence J. Valentine, P.E.

I just finished reading Pagan’s column about continuing education and for the most part agree with him. A fair portion of the continuing education available out there does not contribute to my professional competency; however, I am not ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater. While I agree with Pagan’s statement, "Ensuring the ability to perform at an adequate level within any profession is primarily the responsibility of the license holder," I also know that there are those who will not do what is necessary unless forced to do so. They may eventually lose their license due to the failure to keep up technically, but may also [cause] significant damage in the interim. I would support any initiative to tighten up the requirements as far as subject matter and testing to ensure that the information was actually retained.

Mark Hines, P.E.

You may argue the pros and cons and overall value of continuing education, but don’t you have the choice to select which courses you feel have at least a chance of giving you something of value? In the three states in which I am licensed, all require continuing education, but all allow the licensee to select the programs that they feel they will benefit from. I have been to some seminars and courses which have really opened my eyes to new things, and some which were of little value. Overall I feel continuing education is a good thing for the profession.

Thomas L. Moore, P.E.

Following a period of much travel, I have finally had an opportunity to read my November 2008 issue of CE News. Upon reading the Perspective of Alfred Pagan, P.E., I feel compelled to add my views to the ongoing dialogue. I must state up front that I am appalled at the attitude of Mr. Pagan regarding his profession and his opposition to the requirement for mandatory Continued Professional Education (CPE).

First, let me explain my biases. I am a past president of the Virginia Society of Professional Engineers (VSPE)—a state society of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)—a Fellow of the Society of American Military Engineers, and member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). I am also a certified project management professional (PMP) with the Project Management Institute.

Recently, VSPE and state affiliates of other design professions joined in a successful effort to have the Commonwealth of Virginia mandate 16 hours of Continuing Education for all engineers, architects, and surveyors practicing in Virginia during each two-year period prior to license renewal. Courses may include technical engineering topics, project management, risk management, and ethics.

As we worked through the process, hundreds of comments were posted on a central website for public input into the development of implementing regulations. Predictably, many of the comments we heard from respondents were similar [Pagan’s]—too much of a financial burden, no value in the courses, a time burden, impractical and unnecessary, too many constraints, and would discourage the number of registrants. Many respondents objected to making continuing education mandatory.

These responses, and [Pagan’s] opinion, come at a time when the ASCE and NSPE are seeking to actually increase the educational requirements necessary to become a professional engineer to 30 credit hours beyond the bachelors degree. While many in the profession of engineering are seeking to enhance the integrity of our profession, other practitioners are content to move through their careers with a minimum investment in their ongoing education as professionals.

I believe the central issue boils down to how we see ourselves as professionals. I am licensed as a professional engineer in both Maryland and Virginia and subject to licensure boards in both states. As I review their websites, I see these boards also license marine pilots, barbers, cosmetologists, foresters, plumbers, electricians, soils scientists and water plant operators. Do we as professional engineers and licensed surveyors seek to be just another "Licensed Occupation and Profession," or do we wish to be a "learned profession?"

The learned professions of law and medicine clearly hold a greater reputation, prestige, and position of trust in our society than the licensed occupations, and are therefore afforded a significantly higher level of compensation for their services. Both law and medicine demand continuing education of those who practice. Who among us would want an attorney representing us who was not familiar with the latest cases that could affect our success in a court of law, or a doctor managing our healthcare who is not current on the latest medical innovations and advancements? Should the public not have the same expectation of those who design our bridges, roads, and public health systems? I for one would like to know that the new bridge just designed by the professional engineer incorporates the latest technology to ensure the safety and longevity of this public asset. Key to this is the requirement that professionals maintain technical competence through ongoing, life-long education. Simply put, one’s education must never stop.

Like the courses offered for engineers and surveyors, the quality of continuing education offerings for law and medicine vary widely in quality and rigor. However, this is no excuse to abandon the requirement. Indeed, it is the responsibility of the professional to seek out and demand the best and most worthwhile courses to meet the requirement. One needs look no further than the pages of CE News to find solid opportunities for Professional Development Hour credits. In Virginia, we offer the annual Virginia Engineers’ Conference, where participants can obtain 12 PDH credits over just two days of attendance. In my view, this conference has offered some of the best CPE courses I’ve ever taken, in a very cost- and time-effective format.

As indicated above, I am also a certified project management professional (PMP). In order to maintain certification as a PMP, I am required to complete 60 hours of PDH credits every three years, far more than the total requirements for licensure as a professional Engineer in Virginia. Surely the professional engineer or licensed surveyor, who is charged with safeguarding the health and safety of the public, should not be held to a lower standard than a profession certified by its own institute. We expect more of professional engineers and surveyors and, if we are to be true professionals, we should demand more of ourselves.

Neal T. Wright, P.E., PMP, F. SAME

I read with interest Alfred Pagan’s article on continuing education. I hold a P.E. license in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Colorado, and Arizona. I am also a licensed surveyor in Arizona. I am the major shareholder in a civil engineering company and serve as the city engineer in over 15 different size communities from 50 to 25,000 [population]. I agree with Pagan’s assessment that it is our duty as license holders to maintain our own professional proficiency.

Every license I hold seems to demand PDUs. Some areas within which we used to practice freely as engineers have now become little islands of professionalism, each with its own PDU demand. A recent example is in the area of erosion and sediment control, which now has licenses for designers and inspectors, courses for keeping up with education, and an industry to certify both. I recently met someone who was certified to conduct public hearings. I am sure that their certification program included PDUs and had an industry to make sure that continuing education was available and certifiable. In short, the business of providing PDUs is a business in itself, which is interested in perpetuating itself. But who is certifying the certifiers ?

Tom Werblow, P.E., L.S.

The last line in Pagan’s column is worth remembering: "Ensuring the ability to perform at an adequate level within any profession is primarily the responsibility of the license holder." I completely agree with Pagan’s comment.

I also am a professional engineer and professional land surveyor in the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and I agree with Pagan’s comments. I have attended at least three drainage presentations by Pagan. [He] is a great instructor and professional and the surveying profession will lose a talented individual. To this day, I still remember his use of Schmoos to explain some of the drainage aspects.

For the first 25-plus years of my licensed career, on an average, I took at least 80-plus hours of workshops in various fields of engineering, such as drainage, detention and retention design, access management, traffic control, all phases of surveying, GPS, surveying laws and legal cases, et cetera. I travelled to other states to take interesting courses, all with the intent to increase my knowledge. Currently, I still take various courses but have cut down to about 24 hours per year. Even though I exceed the minimum hours required, I still do not feel that the training should be mandatory. In New Jersey, the P.E.s are not required to take mandatory courses as of this time. In Pennsylvania, it will be a matter of time before the courses are required. It is not an easy task to find courses that are not repetitions and slight refinements of previous courses. Unlike Pagan, I do not attend courses that are almost useless. I still manage to find courses that provide more than a little bit of use.

To other professionals [who] are thinking about surrendering one of your licenses: Remember that once you surrender your license, you will no longer be recognized as an expert in that field if you are to defend you firm’s or your prior work.

Louis J. Marchuk, P.E., P.L.S., P.P., CFM

Sadly, Mr. Pagan’s observations about his continuing education experiences are not uncommon. As a practicing land surveyor for 19 years, a past-president of the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers, and member of the association’s professional development committee since 1987, I have tremendous sympathy, and empathy for Pagan’s plight. In fact, I even let my own professional forester’s license lapse because, at the time, I could not afford the time or the money to complete continuing education for two professions when I was only actively practicing one.

My interest in this is more than just anecdotal, however. In 2006 I completed my masters degree at the University of Maine where my thesis was a study of mandatory continuing education’s effectiveness for professional land surveyors. The formal title of that thesis was The Effect of Mandatory Continuing Education on Practice Quality and Competency of Professional Land Surveyors, and it can be downloaded (for free) from the University of Maine’s Fogler Library website. Though it was not surprising that the mandatory nature of continuing education was not having much of an effect, what was fascinating was what I learned about how land surveyors actually learn and develop competency. It seems that when asked about how they developed competency in new areas of their practice, land surveyors consistently ranked seminars near the bottom of their educational methods! You will be glad to know that they actually ranked magazines (such as CE News) higher than seminars in helping them develop competency!

My findings about how land surveyors learn have led me to the University of Connecticut where I am now working on my doctorate with a research focus on the very issue Pagan mentions. Specifically, how do we design a continuing education learning experience for professional land surveyors that actually impacts competency in the targeted technical area and provide it in a way that respects the very real constraints (most notably, time and money) of a day-to-day land surveying practice? In January I will be beginning this research, full time, and if all goes as planned we will soon have a theory-based, empirically validated model for land surveyor learning that will actually impact competency.

A. Richard Vannozzi, P.L.S.

I agree with [Pagan] to about 1000 percent!! I retired from being a New York P.E. for the simple reasons that:

  1. It would cost from $60 to over $200 per hour to get 12 hours of "continuing education" in subjects that had absolutely no usefulness to me in the work that I do. Since my employer is me, the benefit/cost ratio for this is seriously negative.
  2. The BS involved in getting New York-approved courses far exceeded any potential benefits that I could find.
  3. When I need information about a new subject or process, I dig it up. I don’t need to be spoon fed trivia at an introductory level by someone with a major lack of real-world experience.

I feel strongly that continuing education is first, a move by the educational community to keep themselves busy at the expense of the engineering population. Second, what do these eggheads know about what really goes on in the outside world. Third, if they were qualified to teach real engineering, they would be licensed, not Ph.D’d. When you put your seal on something, it is a gut-wrenching decision because you just became totally responsible for all aspects of the project. It is not a decision that I take lightly.

Tim Walker, P.E.

I fully agree with Mr. Pagan about the effectiveness of continuing education for practicing engineers. The courses do little if anything to improve my ability to do a quality job for my clients and the public in general. If you are working primarily in an engineering role, you continually gain new knowledge from the people you work with, jobs you work on, documents you read, and research you do to get your job done. Short courses and seminars offer almost nothing that actually deals with what you have to do to successfully complete engineering assignments that result in a safe and economical design for your customer.

If you are working primarily in a supervisory (management) role, then I can see the need to take classes to keep your knowledge fresh. But when you are using your engineering skills daily I do not see the need for continuing education.

Allen J. Palmer, P.E.

I am in full agreement with Mr. Pagan’s perspective and have no use for PDUs. One must take worthless courses just because they’re offered, only to meet the letter of the law, never to meet the intent (unless by accident). The benefit is non-existent, except to the instructor, and costs a small fortune to the pupil. Pagan’s summary regarding responsibility is on the mark.

David A. King, P.E., L.S.

I, like Mr.Pagan, am a New Jersey P.E. and L.S. I have from the inception of the continuing education requirement been frustrated with the cost, time, and lack of any value in the classes offered. I find most of the classes are venues for equipment venders to pitch their wares. If I’m going to spend $30,000 to $100,000 for a piece of equipment, I’m sure going to find out, for nothing, how to use it.

Some classes and instructors are very good, but usually not a must for me to do what I’ve been doing for the last 35 years.

Terrell M. Essig, P.E., L.S.

I was a bit distressed by one section of [Pagan’s] column in which [he] lambasted the value of some of the courses [he] had taken in obtaining sufficient PDUs to maintain [his] license. In particular, [he] made the statement, "I was required to spend time sitting through courses in which I had no interest and which would be of no use whatsoever in my professional practice."

You may argue the pros and cons and overall value of continuing education, but don’t you have the choice to select which courses you feel have at least a chance of giving you something of value? In the three states (Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas) in which I am licensed, all require continuing education, but all allow the licensee to select the programs that they feel they will benefit from.

I have been to some seminars and courses which have really opened my eyes to new things, and some which were of little value. Overall I feel continuing education is a good thing for the profession.

Any licensee who is caught falsifying their continuing education record should be subject to discipline by their licensing board.

Thomas L. Moore, P.E.

I too, am an older engineer with dual licenses in the state of Ohio. Years ago, when the first serious discussions began over continuing education requirements, I was against it. I have been active in professional engineering organizations and remember vividly discussing this issue long before it became law in Ohio. I felt then and feel now that it should be the responsibility of the individual engineer or surveyor to remain proficient in his field of practice. Maintaining a log of courses that you have taken doesn’t make you a better engineer or surveyor, but it seems to have spawned a new industry of offering continuing education courses.

I can’t even open my mailbox without receiving at least one advertisement for a seminar or educational opportunity. What all of these offers share is a very high cost for someone to teach you something that you probably already know or don’t really need to know to practice in your chosen field.

I am not against learning, but I think I have earned the right to determine what educational opportunities I should pursue and what level of education I need to practice in my area of expertise. I have tried to keep abreast of my profession and attend classes or study literature that I feel is necessary, even without the continuing education requirement. At this time, the state of Ohio does not require the submission of continuing education accomplishments but rather only requires the individual to maintain a personal log. As [Pagan] points out in [his] article, anyone who really wants to can falsify a log or load up on meaningless "educational" classes or seminars.

In my mind, the true professional is one who has a keen sense of ethics, is active in his profession, has a sense of service to the public, and voluntarily pursues those educational activities that are necessary to maintain proficiency in his field of practice.

I wholeheartedly agree with [Pagan] when [he] says, "Ensuring the ability to perform at an adequate level within any profession is primarily the responsibility of the license holder." Continuing education requirements don’t ensure that we have good engineers, but it does provide a lot of opportunity for those who operate the plethora of expensive seminars that are being offered. Those that are unethical or have not kept up with their profession can still manage to maintain their licenses with or without a continuing education requirement. They will simply be inconvenienced by this ineffective and unnecessary requirement.

Terrence Gerson, P.E., P.S.

Continuing education should not have to be mandated—it is a professional responsibility!! As a professional, one has an obligation to maintain his/her skills in the areas of their practice. If you don’t want to do that, don’t call yourself a "professional engineer"!! I would think one would want to—not have to.

The licensing boards should do their job to oversee, investigate, and discipline those who don’t maintain the necessary skills in their areas of practice. Taking courses just to get your ticket punched is, as [Pagan] pointed out, a waste of time and money.

Michael J. Young, P.E.

In reading Mr Pagan’s article in the November 2008 issue of CE News, he does have a point. I have always felt the ultimate driving point to anything is control and money. Would it be possible for all states to come together? A program could be enacted, say, by January 2010. All professional engineers holding an active license, in good standing, from their home state would qualify. Therefore my thought is as follows:

Most licensed engineers have obtained their P.E. in the state in which they have residence. Many of these licensed P.E.s normally provide services to the adjacent state(s). For example, Mr. Pagan obtained his license in New Jersey, he would also be able to work in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware for a single annual fee paid to the state of New Jersay. Let’s use $100 per state or a total of $400. New Jersey would allocate the appropriate money to each adjacent state equally. Continuing education classes would be required, but good for all four states.

The state of Ohio licensee, for example, would see an annual cost of $600 but would have the ability to work in the adjacent states of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Again, Ohio would see that the $600 is allocated to the appropriate states equally and continuing education would be good for all states.

An engineer seeking licensing in other state(s) outside of the adjacent states would require additional consideration. Similar to what presently is done.

Licensing would increase, continuing education is controlled and cost effective to all individuals, many professionals work in adjacent states, boards can reduce there internal costs, yet obtaining more monies to support the engineering profession, et cetera.

Timothy J. Ambrosius, P.E.

The real requirement for continuing education for those of us who work in private practice is determined by our clients. If I am not able to do their work or if I continue to use the engineering methods and practices I was taught in college in the 1960s, the client will very quickly find someone else who can take care of his needs quickly and efficiently. The continuing education mandated by the state licensing board is more a record-keeping requirement than an education requirement. It has gotten me several free lunches from manufacturers’ representatives who want to show me how their product can be used to satisfy new requirements dictated by the Clean Water Act or local governing bodies. It has also delivered a stack of mail to my desk from numerous entities providing continuing education seminars (usually very expensive) that I may or may not have any interest in and most of which do not even apply to my field of engineering.

The best education I have received in my career has been from older engineers who taught me earlier in my career, and now, from helping young engineers in the early stages of their careers. That has forced me to think about why I do things in order to be able to explain what we do better to them. Many times, their questions have forced me to learn more.

The other training I have received in my career is from contractors and manufacturers’ representatives. Many times I have had unusual situations where I contacted a contractor I trusted and explained to him what I needed but was concerned with how to build it. Often, the contractor has given me very good advice on construction techniques so I could modify the design to get a finished product that met the design requirements and could be built within budget.

I have also learned a lot from manufacturers’ representatives who are willing to take the time to explain their product and tell me if their product is the right fit for this job. I have found a few who try to fit their product to a job where it should not be used, but I have found most are looking for a long-term business relationship and will advise me in finding the right product even if they do not have it.

The purpose of continuing education should be to better continue serving our clients and the general public to the best of our ability.

Elmer Krussel, P.E.

As both a P.E. and L.S. in the state of New Jersey, I too must satisfy the continuing education requirements in order to maintain my surveying licensure. I agree completely with Mr. Pagan’s comments that the majority of the continuing education classes have little value in the everyday practice of land surveying. While courses such as "The History of Surveying" and "Drawing Fire," which discussed surveying and mapping during the Civil War, were informative, educational, and entertaining, they offer little practical benefit. I even endured a class on liability insurance since it provided a discount on my liability coverage premium.

Although certain courses dealing with ALTA/ACSM surveys, flood boundaries, property boundary disputes, et cetera served a practical purpose, it is difficult, within each 24-month licensing cycle, to schedule a sufficient number of this type of technical courses to satisfy the continuing education criteria.

The situation in New Jersey is further complicated by the fact that the State Surveyor’s Conference, where a number of continuing education courses are offered, is held in the southern portion of the state (Atlantic City) each year. This means that surveyors from the northern part of the state who attend the conference must not only pay the cost of the classes [but] also pay for a hotel room, meals, et cetera.

While I understand the need to stay current in order to compete in today’s world, a surveyor or an engineer must keep up with changes in the laws, equipment, et cetera. This is a matter of course for a practicing professional.

If a state wishes to implement mandatory continuing education, then the state board should offer specific continuing education courses throughout each year at various locations in the state. This would serve several purposes. First and foremost is that it would provide all licensees with information which the state board feels is essential. Second, it would permit a licensee to obtain the required continuing education credits with minimal cost, inconvenience, et cetera. Thirdly, it would actually serve the members and not merely be punching a ticket.

Kenneth J. Job, P.E., L.S., P.P.

I hold ASCE to blame for this overly empathized, unwarranted importance of continuing education.

CE effects: An increase in the pocketbook of the University of Wisconsin (UW) at Madison, where we usually go. Their seminars are excellent, but I am at the point where I have taken several of them two or three times. This is nice if one wants to become very good friends with some of the UW professors, but it is time consuming and also costly. Madison is a really pretty place though, with good restaurants, so we enjoy ourselves each time we go.

Most useful and effective training: When Northwestern (NU) opened their Technological Institute (I was class of 1950), there was a shortage of teachers. NU’s solution was to employ a number of professionals, both retired and practicing, to fill the gaps. For me, this provided an excellent background in construction/design, surveying, and geology. These men were not primarily teachers, so their presentations (to the amusement of some of the students) sometimes left much to be desired. Their knowledge, however, was nonpareil, and I devoured as much of it as I could. The surveying instructor was an old time, seasoned surveyor. Knowledge imparted by his fractured English has served me well for many years. (I passed up going for a surveyor’s license because I thought I was not fussy enough for the detailed analysis involved.) The geology instructor read borehole logs for major oil companies, so the teaching bit was recreation for him. He was so good that I almost became a geologist (his was the only straight-A course that I ever took). The knowledge also was invaluable, since my opinions for the client have always been backed up completely by any geologist.

Keeping pace: This is almost a personal thing, and frankly, I resent being forced by a third party to do something which I have always endeavored to do—keeping myself current. I have never undertaken design which I felt was beyond my capabilities. I am sure other engineers feel the same. There will always be, unfortunately, morally deficient people in all walks of life, engineers included. Continuing education does nothing for these people. As for the rest of us, it has been my experience that competent engineers will not bite off more than they can chew. As Eastwood is fond of saying, "A man has to know his limitations." I have always collected disaster and failure articles from ENR, not to rejoice in someone’s misfortune, but to profit from the lesson(s) taught thereby. One always hopes that he comes away from a project wiser than when he went in.

Henry J. Boesch Jr., P.E.

Wow! I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Pagan. The only reason for required continuing education is to keep us up to date in our chosen field.

As a member of Maine’s P.E. Licensing Board in the 1980s and early 1990s I observed many P.E.s who were doing nothing to keep current in their field of engineering. They did not belong to ASCE, ASHRAE, IEEE, et cetera. The only reason they had clients was that their fees were much less than their more involved peers. In my opinion, they were not a credit to their profession. I can only hope that somehow they keep up to date with the constant code changes in our profession.

One of the paths to accomplishing the required continuing education units is publishing technical articles or giving lectures at our engineering societies’ meetings.

Pagan mentions people who cheat in their attendance at continuing education courses. Many years ago, my physician bragged of going to Bermuda for required continuing education credits and actually spending the time on the golf course. I quickly changed to a doctor who was more serious about their profession.

Pagan talks about cutting back due to "contemplating retirement." I am having too much fun (and fortunately good health) to even consider retirement. I received my BSME in 1956 and presently have active P.E. licenses in eight states. I have clients all over the United States with moldy buildings, frequently with a failed insulation system.

I agree with Pagan that P.E.s need to take responsibility for their engineering proficiency. However, a few engineers and surveyors need the little push provided by required continuing education credits.

Currently, I am serving as vice chair of the Maine P.E. Licensing Board. We have found a few P.E.s who have falsified their continuing education record. The result has been a letter from the Maine Attorney General’s office and a $1,000 fine.

William A. Lotz, P.E.

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