A recent Engineering Change Lab – USA (ECL) summit featured a deep dive into the future of licensure for engineering and the role licensure and regulatory bodies can play in ensuring that engineers and organizations engaged in the development of the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution act in the public interest. Discussions at the summit demonstrated a clear need for engineering licensure models to adapt to these transformational developments in a manner that will protect the public and guide engineers to practice as stewards of technology and nature on behalf of society.
Several key elements of a future regulatory model emerged at the summit.
- Increased focus on macro-ethics in addition to the traditional focus on micro-ethics.
- Mastery of critical thinking and systems thinking skills in addition to analytical and problem-solving skills.
- Consideration of modular regulatory systems in addition to the current single license model.
- Moving to an agile and adaptable system from the current static / high inertia model.
- Shift to a system based on credentials demonstrated through a portfolio or peer review in addition to the current education / exam / experience model.
- Emphasis on the importance of lifelong learning.
- Addition of inter-disciplinary licensure to the current single discipline model.
- Consideration of team- or project-based licensure to address emerging technologies.
- Moving from state-based licensure to a blended system of self-regulation, state and national.
These elements are captured in a map of the future of licensure that you can review at this link.
As an outcome of the summit, ECL has formed a Steering Committee to experiment with the design of prototype models for a future regulatory system. The Steering Committee includes representatives of both NCEES and NSPE.
The Steering Committee has developed an “appreciative question” to frame its work.
Imagine a regulatory system for engineering that fits both the needs of the present practice of engineering and the demands and dynamics of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the Engineering Grand Challenges of the 21st Century.
The objective for the experiment is as follows.
Create and deploy a set of prototypes for possible advances moving the regulatory system toward this aspirational future.
- Designed around the tenets and parameters for such a transformational shift mapped out at the ECL Licensure Summit.
- Allow for feedback, learning, and iterative elaboration of possibilities.
An early decision by the Steering Committee was to identify one area of engineering practice to test the concept of developing a prototype future regulatory system. The Steering Committee wanted this to be an area of multi-disciplinary engineering practice involved in the development of an emerging technology that is problematic to regulate under the current engineering licensure model.
The Steering Committee selected the team-based practice of mobility engineering as an area of practice that met these criteria. The Steering Committee also prepared a preliminary list of the components of a future regulatory system that might be considered in the creation of a regulatory model for mobility engineering.
- Jurisdiction (National, State)
- Team Body of Knowledge (Technical, Systems Thinking, Critical Thinking, Community/Stakeholder Engagement, Micro- & Macro-Ethics)
- Team Education
- Team Competence & Experience
- Examination – Technical
- Examination – Ethics
- Team Continuing Education
- Regulatory System Agility & Adaptability
The Steering Committee then decided to partner with an academic institution to develop the background research necessary for the prototype mobility engineering regulatory system. This research process will be conducted in two phases.
- Phase 1 – Industry Research. Identify and collaborate with organizations currently involved in mobility engineering to develop an in-depth understanding of this area of engineering practice. The researchers will be looking for industry collaborators who are open to consideration of licensure issues related to their work. The researchers will work with the industry collaborators to develop an understanding of project approach, team composition, project team organization, stakeholder engagement, risks and risk management approaches, and current regulatory environment outside of engineering licensure.
- Phase 2 – Prototype Development. Based on learning from Phase 1, collaborate with the Steering Committee to develop a detailed framework for a prototype regulatory system for the practice of mobility engineering (considering both individual and team-based practice). Working with the Steering Committee, evaluate this framework for its applicability to other multi-disciplinary, emerging-technology-based practice areas.
The Steering Committee has selected Dr. Qingbin Cui, PhD, Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Build America Center at the University of Maryland as research partner. Dr. Cui’s work at the center includes providing research, technical assistance, and capacity building for the U.S. Department of Transportation, 50 state DOT’s and MPO’s. Dr. Cui and his team have begun work on Phase 1 which will be completed prior to the end of the year.
The objective of the Future of Licensure initiative is to develop a prototype regulatory framework that will provide value to engineering regulatory bodies that are struggling with regulation of engineering work involving the application of emerging technologies. This could provide greater protection of public health, safety, and welfare. We look forward to continuing this important work.