Lifelong learning to meet engineering challenges

October 2010 » Departments » LETTERS

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I read the article in the August 2010 issue of CE News entitled “Lifelong Learning to Meet Engineering Challenges,” by Theresa M. Casey. The article provides a list of “Certifications for Civil Engineers.” Since I am looking for an edge in the civil engineering market, I found this list appealing and decided to visit the website of the American Academy of Water Resources. Interestingly, to earn a “Diplomate, Water Resources Engineer” requires a minimum equivalent to a Master’s degree (30 units of post-graduate coursework). However, here is an excerpt that I have copied and pasted directly from their website:

Requirements for Certification
Applicants for certification as a Diplomate, Water Resources Engineer shall demonstrate that they meet the prescribed Body of Knowledge for Water Resources Engineering (we are currently updating the WRE BOK) by demonstrating:
Applicants for certification as a Diplomate, Water Resources Engineer shall demonstrate that they meet the prescribed by demonstrating:

….

Perhaps I am overstating the obvious, but this excerpt appears to “demonstrate” lack of proper grammar. The civil engineering community seems to be caught up in a whirlwind of advancing education and certificates for this, that, and everything else. From my perspective, our industry lacks basic competency and ethics, and fails miserably at protecting the profession. When I say “basic competency,” I am referring to common sense in contrast to the ability to solve differential equations. Unfortunately, “common sense” is apparently uncommon amidst our ranks.

Our profession is currently caught in a wave of specialty certifications. Most of us would like to have something more than just “P.E.” behind our names. Unfortunately, in doing so we are unknowingly diluting the profession. I came to this realization when I attended a seminar relating to California’s new draft SWPPP requirements several months ago. The presentation provided jointly by the state of California Water Resources Control board and CalTrans led me and one of my colleagues to believe that we would need to attend special training through a private vendor to prepare a SWPPP. We specifically asked one of the presenters if that would be the case, despite the fact that we are P.E.s that specialize in stormwater system design. The presenter’s response was that it was “still up in the air,” but that our interpretation was how the state seemed to be leaning. The irony is that the training provider could quite possibly have much less experience than I do, and may not be an engineer. I found this circumstance to be quite alarming, as did my colleague since it could have direct impacts on our respective markets.

Thinking a little harder about the whole gamut of certificates available, I realized that I have nearly 12 years of experience with onsite stormwater treatment, retention, and erosion control. While I could easily obtain a related LEED certification, why would I either want or need to? It appears that our profession has fallen prey to a marketing and political lobbying campaign by private associations that threaten the very core of our profession. I personally have experienced the negative effect of agencies that allow land planners to be responsible for civil engineering functions, which in many cases is illegal but yet goes unchecked. I have been involved in two formal complaints against engineers — one working without a license, and the other that was trying to force water to sheet flow uphill — without resolve. I have suffered serious consequences and major blows to my career from whistleblower retaliation. At the same time, the licensing board found it fit to issue a colleague a $1,500 fine and suspend his license for 10 days for not providing a “complete” invoice to a client. So which are the bigger sins?

For all of the engineering association back-slapping and letters behind our names that we believe give us bragging rights, we have lost ground as a respectable profession. In my opinion, we need to forget about certificates and get back to our core roots and functions (i.e., use common sense). We need to vigorously defend our profession, perform at a much higher ethical level, and have the fortitude and ability to stand up to protect one another and the public without the threat of retaliation. If our professional boards of registration are not going to protect our profession and interests, then perhaps we need to be spending our time, effort, and money lobbying to force change instead of trying to obtain the next “certificate-of-the month.”
Nick Zaninovich, P.E.

I just finished reading [Theresa Casey’s] very excellent article in CE News and sent along some comments as suggested to Jerry Carter at NCEES. Just one additional comment for you. Somehow you missed the BCEE (originally DEE) certification by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers which predates every civil engineering certification (and is the model for many) listed in the article sidebar. Otherwise, an outstanding article.
C. Wayne Dillard, P.E., DEE, M.ASCE

[Theresa Casey’s] informative update article “Lifelong learning to meet engineering challenges” (CE News, August 2010) incorrectly identified a number of post-licensure “Certifications for civil engineers” as “diplomats” (one skilled in diplomacy). The correct term is actually “diplomate” (one certified as a specialist by a board of examiners).
Darrell Eidson, P.E., D.WRE


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