Registration for engineers: national status update
A lot of progress has been made in the last few years towards the implementation of mandatory registration schemes for engineers. Here is an overview on the jurisdictions that are most involved and how they affect you.
Why Engineer Registration?
Engineers Australia has a long-standing aim to enforce compulsory registration schemes for engineers for governments. From turning on a light switch to ensuring that high-rise buildings do not tip over in high winds, engineering touches on all aspects of society. It is easy to see why a structure that governs the profession is not only useful, but important when you consider the value of engineering to the society. In their activities in everyday life, they implicitly trust engineers; and that trust needs to be secured.
For all industrial ills, Engineers Australia does not encourage registration as a ‘silver bullet.’ In the construction industry, for example, registration for engineers is the first recommendation of the Shergold & Weir Report of the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) (which investigated the building and construction industry’s failures) because it is the first step; it provides a framework to identify people who are likely to perform competently and a process to eliminate those who are considered to be unfit to work as an engineer. Compulsory registration for those offering technical engineering services would enable public safety and consumer protection to be dramatically improved.
Engineers Australia also urges all jurisdictions to establish cross-border accepted interoperable schemes. The Mutual Recognition Act 1992 guarantees, at a minimum, that an engineer registered in one state is entitled to be remembered in another for registration.
The State of play
In 2019, Victoria passed the Act of Registration for Technical Engineers. It includes the registration of professional engineers in five fields of practice (civil, structural, mechanical, electrical and fire safety) and is applicable to all sectors. Legislation starts on 1 July 2021.
Engineers Australia continues to engage with key parties, including Consumer Affairs and the Office of Projects Victoria, to develop the laws and guidelines for the Act. Supporting documents for the Act will soon be published for public consultation. Engineers Australia will work with stakeholders at that time to obtain your opinions. Importantly, they are going to provide members with many chances to participate.
In June, the Architecture and Construction Practitioners Act 2020 was passed by NSW. The Act provided a necessity, among other items, for practicing engineers to be registered to practice independently. Like Victoria, it extends to all sectors, continues with the same five practice areas, and begins on July 1, 2021.
The next step is the creation of the corresponding regulations to provide the scheme with the necessary information. Consultation with representative organizations such as Engineers Australia has been initiated by the government and public consultation is scheduled to occur in October/November. Engineers Australia will be able to formally request members’ input on the proposed regulations at that time.
EA members should be confident that their advice to the government is focused on the input you have already given during their comprehensive member consultation in 2019 and early 2020, even at this early stage of regulatory growth.
For example, EA urge the government to ensure that the regulations meet the purpose of the Act and extend without delay across all industries, that the National Engineering Register (NER) is accepted as a registration pathway, and that CPD standards are maintained at a fair level. Please visit Engineers Australia’s website for more information about the situation in NSW (including a FAQ page).
The government has claimed in the ACT for several years that it will implement engineering registration. Some have questioned whether it will become a reality because of the long period of subsequent inaction, but negotiations with the government suggest that its commitment to engineering registration is strong and it is fair to expect consultation to begin in 2020 and continue into 2021.
The WA government is also pursuing engineering registration, although it is limiting its work to the construction sector. For the next 5 months, a discussion paper is available for public comment. Members based in Western Australia would already have received a notification from the General Manager of the Division requesting input on the policies of the government, and several more in-depth consultation sessions are being conducted by the General Manager.
Finally, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is creating a system for the registration of professionals, including engineers, in the building industry. With the major jurisdictions already well down the road of developing registration schemes for engineers, the ultimate proposal of the ABCB is likely to be of greatest value to those who have not yet begun registration work. In addition, using a guide and examining whether changes to current laws can be made over time would be useful for all jurisdictions.