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Do we need Professional Engineers?

Do We Need Professional Engineers
Do We Need Professional Engineers

As T.S. Eliot wrote: “It is impossible to design a system so perfect that no one needs to be good”. Professional engineers are those that promote that good.

Engineers and more broadly the engineering profession have for years applied scientific knowledge for practical purposes and the good of the public at large. This comes with significant responsibilities to “do good” and protect the public from the harms that might come from the technology used.

Over the course of the last several decades the original fields of engineering have grown to include other applied sciences such as: computer, sustainability, environmental, bio-medical, social, cybersecurity, safety, aerospace, risk, process safety, and many many more – most likely hundreds of fields.

Unfortunately, the role of a professional engineer has not progressed to participate in these other domains. For example, the use of engineering stamps on drawings as a way to help provide assurance of public safety has not found its equivalent for other areas of the profession. However, far worse, engineers have more broadly been left out of the conversation regarding ethical aspects and protection of public harm.

Back in the day, although my degree was computer engineering its core was electrical so that it could be accredited by the professional engineering association. Technically, the profession had not found a spot for computer engineers. Even today this has not really changed.

Upon graduating I pursued a professional engineers license in support of my duty to protect the public something that I strongly agreed with. However, what would a computer engineer do with a professional engineer's stamp? Would we stamp computer architecture diagrams or other design documents? I never have or was every asked to.

As my professional association is currently heading towards elections there is talk about modernizing the profession specifically governance and regulatory aspects. However, I wonder if we might do better to work towards the elevation of professional engineers beyond the traditional five to all engineering practices.

Engineers need to have a voice to speak up to the ethical and societal aspects of the growing list of technologies that are used. We need to find an equivalent of the engineer's stamp for all of engineering.

Now, I realize that there is nothing special about the stamp. What is important is what the stamp symbolizes. The stamp represents that the engineer takes responsibility for the engineering work and will be held accountable for it. It is a stamp of assurance – a seal of trust. The public today still needs the same assurances.

We need engineers more than ever as we look to science and technology to help address climate change, sustainability, cyber risk, and many other public concerns. However, we just don't need their technical knowledge and skills. We also need their commitment to public safety and to do good which requires a modern day stamp of assurance and seal of trust.

So yes, there is still a role for professional engineers and we need more of them in every field of engineering.



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