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The Role of Government Public policy directly influences continuing education. This chapter will address legislative trends that are directly related to the shape and direction of continuing education of the engineer in the United States. Comparative national policies will then be reviewed to place U.S. public policy in some perspective. Finally, the federal government's role as a provider of continuing education will be examined. Mandatory Requalification Most nonindustry engineers in all states must be registered to prac- tice their profession. Those in favor of continuing the proof of compe- tence say their purpose is basically to ensure the quality of products and services provided by engineers. Many engineers, however, detect in such statements the first steps toward a profession totally regulated by a government bureaucracy. About 25 percent of the states have become involved in activities focusing either on repeal of the industry exemption to engineering registration laws, as in Montana, or on laws mandating continuing education, as in Iowa. In addition, New Jersey and Wisconsin have voluntary professional development programs for registered profes- sional engineers wherein credits are granted for activities such as col- lege-level and short courses, seminars, inventions, technical society meetings, research papers, trade shows, and home study. These pro- grams, together with the impetus for repeal of industry exemptions, are 64

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THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT 65 being backed by state affiliate societies of the National Society of Pro- fessional Engineers [Zimmerman, 1978~. Corresponding concern exists regarding the quality of continuing education programs. The National University Extension Association is on record as recommending that continuing education programs be subject to the same review process extended to other accredited colle- giate activities Burnett, 1979~. The Accreditation Board for Engineer- ing and Technology and several technical societies have studied accreditation or validation of continuing education programs for engi- neers [Atiyeh and Young, 1983~. As a result of the public debate in the early 1970s regarding the competencies of various professions, the state of Iowa established a legislative study committee. It was chartered to review a proposal that provided for legislative review of all professional and occupational examining boards and mandated continuing education as a condition of license renewal. On the basis of favorable findings, an act was adopted by the legislature and signed into law in July 1977. In 1979 the Iowa State Board of Engineering Examiners [ISBEE) adopted administrative rules defining qualifying programs, the contin- uing education unit, and the annual requirements for license renewal. The ISBEE does not, however, prequalify programs. So long as the activity is determined by the engineer to contribute to his or her profes- sional competence, and so long as it has a clear propose and objective and is well organized, planned, and presented by qualified instructors, it is deemed appropriate. The ISBEE rules defined the professional development hour {PDH) as the unit of continuing education. Initially, full-time practicing engi- neers were required to complete 15 formal PDHs and 25 informal PDHs annually. Nonpracticing engineers were required to complete 30 for- mal and 25 informal PDHs. In 1983 the informal professional develop- ment requirement and the distinction between full-time and nonpracticing engineers were dropped. A report documenting continuing education is prepared annually in Iowa, as is a random audit of registrants. Results of the 1981 {first-year) audit of 1,007 registrants showed the following: 75 percent noted that courses meeting their needs were available, 93 percent reported release time wholly or partially provided, 87 percent received full or partial reimbursement, 80 percent indicated a suitable opportunity to obtain continuing education. 55 percent perceived or expected improvement in the profession,

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66 CONTINUING EDUCATION OF ENGINEERS 60 percent perceived no change in public perception of the credibil- ity of professional registrants, 48 percent noted improvement in their professional capabilities and 12 percent more expected improvements, and I, 50 percent of industry respondents perceived no improvement in competency. Because of the enactment of the law and the initially more stringent continuing education requirements for nonpracticing engineers, the number of active registrants declined significantly, from 5,180 in 1980 to 4,356 in 1982. The same period saw a concomitant increase in the number of inactive registrants, from 175 to 731. The 1983 report indi- cates an apparent stabilization, with growth in the number of active registrants to 4,676 and maintenance of 731 inactive registrants Ring, 1984J. Comparative Policies Mintzes, in his comparative study of technical personnel trends and competitiveness in the United States, Japan, West Germany, and France; 1982J, concluded that "industry, with government encourage- ment, is more involved in upgrading obsolescent skills of older scien- tific and technical personnel abroad than in the United States." France and West Germany have laws requiring periodic formal retraining, and the lifetime employment policies of the larger Japanese firms generate the same result. Although considerable training takes place in the United States, this country has no systematic policy for upgrading the skills of older workers. In general terms, political structure and tradition exert a heavy influ- ence on program design. Socialist countries tend to be highly organized and to develop programs financed directly or indirectly by the govern- ment. One result is an additional focus on course quality. In capitalistic countries, free markets lead to a focus on the analysis of needs. National economic and development policies also influence the growth and components of continuing education. Developing coun- tries characteristically assign higher priorities to the continuing educa- tion of teachers and technicians than to that of engineers. Moreover, courses are structured "away from traditional disciplines toward areas such as mining engineering, public works engineering, rural engineer- ing, environmental engineering, and maintenance" Plus and Tones, 1978aJ. Virtually every country of the world has programs that subsidize the continuing education of engineers. The usual medium is employer

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THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT 67 subsidies, with instances of government financing and taxation in other cases. The shift from personal to employer/government respon- sibility is such that continuing education is increasingly perceived as a "right," in the manner of undergraduate education. France enacted legislation in 1971 that created a 1 percent payroll tax for employers of more than 10 employees and established continuing education rights. The French experience is of some interest in regard to the domestic issue of mandatory continuing education and its impact on participation in continuing education. Specifically, Klus and Jones { 1978a) report that the percentage of engineers and senior staff partici- pating in continuing education in France decreased, from 19 percent in 1971 to 15 percent in 1975. Also, two surveys conducted by French engineering associations in 1970 and 1973 indicated a constant rate t56 percent) of participation in continuing education. Klus and Jones con- clude that "it is doubtful whether mandatory continuing education for licensees would have any positive effect on continuing education." Federal Programs In Continuing Education Federal civil service regulations provide for support by federal agen- cies of continuing professional development of engineers employed directly by the federal government. Support under these regulations falls into two major categories. One is support for federal employees' attendance at professional meetings and participation in other func- tions of professional and technical engineering societies. The other is support for employees' participation in continuing education activi- ties, including technical seminars, short courses, and degree-producing courses. Continuing education programs include both those presented by universities and technical engineering societies and those presented by the federal agencies themselves. The federal government's commitment of resources to continuing education of its engineering employees is probably very substantial. Unfortunately, however, the system is so decentralized that no reliable data are available. Findings 1. Currently, no governmental guidelines exist for accreditation or evaluation of continuing education programs. 2. Mandatory continuing education programs may have an adverse impact on renewals of professional registration. 3. It is doubtful that mandatory continuing education will have a positive impact on enrollment in continuing education programs.