AEER Governing Bodies
Journal "Engineering Education"
CERTIFICATION OF PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS
In the 90s of the XX century, many countries of the world faced the need to recognize the national accreditation systems of other countries. It turned out that many national accreditation systems, despite external differences, are similar enough to each other that allows to recognize within one community of countries educational documents that have received national accreditation in the member countries of the community.
In 1989, the Washington Accord was adopted – the first agreement within the framework of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA), under which the participating countries guarantee the quality of engineers training in accredited educational programs, which should facilitate the employment of their graduates in any of the member countries. To harmonize the requirements for graduates of educational programs in the field of engineering and technology around the world currently there are certain international agreements:
To unify the system of certification and registration of graduates in June 2004 at the International Engineering Symposium (IEWS) in London, it was decided to develop a single list of requirements for graduates of engineering specialties. Descriptions of the competencies of educational programs graduates corresponding to the Washington, Sydney or Dublin Accord were, in the end, set out in the document "Graduate Attributes and Professional Competencies”. Currently, the content of these documents is formed and updated with the active participation of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA).
Many developed countries have created professional registration systems to carry out comprehensive assessment of graduates' competencies. These systems allow registering and re-registering graduates who meet a predetermined set of criteria. Many registration systems have the international status and operate in the territories of their member countries, for example, Fédération Européenne d’Associations Nationales d’Ingénieurs (FEANI) – in Europe, APEC Engineer Register – in the Asia-Pacific region, Engineers Mobility Forum (EMF) – in the world. Some systems regulating educational activities also provide the registration of educational programs graduates. For example, the Washington Accord, which applies to students of four-year educational programs (bachelor), provides, in addition to the learning process, two stages of graduates’ registration.
The first stage - education in accredited program, the stage of graduation from higher education institution.
The second stage is professional registration, following a certain period of training and experience.
The third stage - obtaining the right to international registration, regulated by legal documents of different countries.
The main purpose of the registration procedure is to assess the level of competence of the educational program graduate with work experience in the specialty at the enterprise of the real sector of the economy. If this level corresponds to the established standards of the registration system, the procedure regulates the registration of a specialist in a special register and the issue of a confirmation certificate. Registration of professional engineers, as a rule, is carried out by independent, non-governmental public and professional organizations (ABET in the USA, ECUK in the UK, JABEE in Japan, etc.) using appropriate criteria and stages.
The existence of standards in the field of education and standards for assessing the competencies of engineers in the member countries of international agreements, allows to guarantee the employer compliance with a certain set of professional competencies and attributes of employed graduates of two-, three - and four-year accredited educational programs of these countries.
The peculiarity of the engineers registration system is the expiration date of the certificate, which forces its holder to undergo periodical re-registration procedure, and one of the necessary conditions for registration and re-registration is a mandatory annual training. Thus, the existence of the registration procedure initiates a whole system of support for the aggregate level of competence of the working specialist at a level not lower than the established standards of the registration system. And forces him to adhere to the model of Life Long Learning. This system is regulated by separate institutes of advanced training of engineers from different countries (Institute of Engineer Professional Development). The main element of certification, registration and re-registration procedures is an exam for assessment of the competencies of a specialist (educational program graduate) necessary for the implementation of independent practical engineering activities. The essence of this assessment is to compare the competence of a specialist with a certain basis – the minimum required level of competence, consistent with the requirements of the International Engineering Alliance and set out in the "Attributes of Graduates and Professional Competencies". The existence of this basis forces the engineer to maintain the level of their own competencies above this value and constantly increase it by improving qualifications.
Non-governmental structures, public organizations and representatives of enterprises, such as leading engineers and previously certified specialists, participate in the formation of registration criteria and directly in the registration procedure.
The employer has a direct interest in the development of systems of registration and certification of engineers in at least two aspects. First, professional certification and registration is a kind of quality guarantee of specialists' competencies compliance (including graduates of certain educational programs) with the established requirements. Secondly, the presence of engineers, certified in accredited international systems among employees, provides a number of advantages over its competitors: easy procedure for institution's participation in international tenders, the conclusion of international contracts, opportunity to build a management system organization and personnel in accordance with the international quality standards, proof of the global level of the company’s products or services.
The world experience of professional engineer registration systems shows that for employees who have received the title of "Professional engineer", the organization opens up new opportunities for professional activity. Such a specialist has the opportunity to hold a managerial position when working on more responsible, complex and expensive projects than a specialist who has not been registered, he has a wider range of duties and rights, in addition, it is easier for him to get various privileges (social, insurance, educational) as a promising specialist in a certain professional area. Thanks to the recognition of such systems as APEC Engineer by many countries of the world, and, in particular, APEC countries, certified professional engineer gets the opportunity for international mobility within the framework of the agreement on this system of registration and certification. This allows him to obtain employment in any country that has accepted the agreement, on a par with the specialists of this country.
The development of certification and registration systems for professional engineers in Russia allows to create an open system of a completely new level for the country to assess the quality of specialists, transparent and understandable, both from the point of view of the implementation procedure and from the point of view of the semantic value of personal certificates for their owner.