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Controversy over Policy 465: A Debate Over How Engineering Should be Governed Caleb M. Frost Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

CONTROVERSY OVER POLICY 465 Controversy over Policy 465: A Debate Regarding How Engineering Should be Governed

As our world advances and becomes more complex a question keeps confronting engineers. Although it takes a couple of different forms, it centers around one main question: what should be the minimum required level of education for engineers seeking a professional status? The most recent debates on the subject have been over one of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) most recent proposals. Policy 465 states that a, masters degree in engineering, or no less than 30 graduate or upper level undergraduate technical and/or professional practice credits should be achieved by engineers seeking to become professionals in their field (ASCE, 1998). This view has been pushed by ASCE because they believe it will enable the engineering field to reach a higher level of professionalism, inspire greater purpose, and increase quality. Not everyone agrees with ASCE and policy 465 has received a lot of resistance especially from businessmen in engineering and state licensing boards. One of the reasons for the discord over the new policy stems from two differing views on engineering, professional verses industrial. These differing perspectives lead both groups to totally different conclusions on how engineering practices should be carried out. The professionals, or reformers, are researchers and engineers who believe the engineering sciences should be free from all business ties. They see the body of engineers as those who should come up with the rules and guidelines which the industry follows. This professional culture of engineers is largely represented by ASCE and is characterized by three main goals. First, is the desire to provide a professional engineering service. Second, is specialization in a specific field

CONTROVERSY OVER POLICY 465 as well as a broad knowledge of underlying fundamentals. Third, is the requisition of professional licensure to maintain a special place in the job market.

The industrial culture, on the other hand, is made up of businessmen and engineers in the common working class. American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) fall into this category, as well as most other types of engineers. This is because the services they provide have them employed in some way by industrial firms. Harold Walker states that because the industrial culture is so closely tied to the creation of wealth they stress an ideology that emphasizes production and efficiency They value technical hands-on knowledge in their fields and do not stress educational correctness. They feel the demands of industry should govern the rules and guidelines for engineers. Another factor that has led to disagreement over policy 465 is whether or not it will fix any of the problems engineers face. Engineer industries need engineers of greater quality and in greater quantity (Vest, Oct. 2011). Although policy 465 will increase the quality of engineers, many feel raising the entry level requirements will discourage students from choosing an engineering field. These concerns were shown through a study done in 2011 on the support of the new policy (Paul, Gus, Grant and James, 2011). The survey showed the most support from academic leaders. Sixty-three percent of those in support were familiar and very familiar. The more familiar people in this group are with the policy the more support they show. The Boards of State Licensing were in the middle showing forty-six percent support and thirty-eight percent against with fifteen and seventy-five percent familiar and very familiar. Predictably the most resistance was found among business leaders with seventy-one percent against, thirteen percent undecided and sixteen percent in support. From these two groups it seem that the people

CONTROVERSY OVER POLICY 465 who know more about the policy are less supportive of it. This shows how the various groups within the engineering fields are divided. Policy 465s foundation lies in inspiring a greater purpose in engineers and an improved public image of engineers. As quoted from its vision statement, civil engineers are, entrusted by society to create a sustainable world and enhance the global quality of life (ASCE, Aug. 2009). This idea of sustainability has emerged as the, transcendent value for civil engineers in the current century (Walker, 2012). ASCE and the other supporters of the policy argue that engineers should have more knowledge in the areas of sustainability, globalization, public policy, and planning. They assert that these things will invoke greater purpose in engineers and help them reach their full potential. Supporters of the policy feel that civil engineering appears too easy to the public and therefore is not as attractive as other professions. In raising the bar on entry level requirements they hope civil engineering will gain a more professional status. Mechanical engineers and other fields related to business also support sustainability, but emphasize a business approach to product and technology developments, rather than public policy. They state that increasing the prestige or status of the profession by raising the bar to

access does not contribute to the profession nor serve the public (ASME 2008a). In their minds raising the professional level of engineering will only raise the price of engineering services because of the increased cost of reaching and retaining the requirements. This gap between cultures in the engineering world is not new. Many of the arguments and views held by both sides today closely reflect those from the Progressive Era during the early twentieth century. This shows that the terms which were lightly agreed upon by both parties then did not hold up with time. The question is what will resolve these opposing views and bring unity to the two communities. Great concern has been shown by some that these

CONTROVERSY OVER POLICY 465 divisions will disable engineers to be effective in helping to solve the problems of our society and the world at large. One step that will help in bridging the gap between these two cultures will be for them to see their similarities and pull together on topics of agreement. Wright supports this idea with the closing words of his article on policy 465 by saying, Ultimately engineering needs to uncover what values and goals tie us together (2012). An understanding of the differences between the professional and industrial sides of

engineering is fundamental to students entering the field. A proper exposure to both sides of the argument will help the next generation learn and accept the advantages of both. Through a continued mindset of working together these professional and industrial cultures can become united in their goals as engineers.


References American Society of Civil Engineers (August 2009). Achieving the Vision for Civil Engineers in 2025: A Roadmap for the Profession. Retrieved from American Society of Civil Engineers, (1998). Policy Statement 465 Academic Prerequisites for Licensure and Professional Practice. Retrieved from ASME. (2008a). Mandatory educational requirements for engineering licensure., (Jul. 25, 2011). Richards, P. W., Williams, G., Schultz, G. G. & Nelson, E. J. (2011). Present Sentiment about ASCE Policy Statement 465 among Business Owners, University Professors, and State Licensing Boards. JOURNAL OF PROFESSIONAL ISSUES IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION & PRACTICE ASCE / JULY 2011, 122 127. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)EI.1943-5541.0000041 Vest, C. M. Engineers: The Next Generation - Do we need more? Who will they be? What will they do? [Web site]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site: Walker, H. W. (2012). Policy 465: Last Struggle in the Revolt of the Engineers. Journal of

CONTROVERSY OVER POLICY 465 Professional Issues in Engineering Education & Practice, ASCE/October 2012, 283-289. DOI:10.1061/(ASCE)EI.1943-5541.0000113