by Emily Reineke, CAE

Engineers plan, construct, and maintain the built world we interact with—everything from roads, buildings, and bridges, to vehicles, medical devices and energy infrastructure. Engineering standard setting is crucial for public safety, and Engineers Australia facilitates this process. For Australian degree programs, this happens through a traditional accreditation process of evaluating and certifying each
program to ensure quality compliance.

For engineers trained outside of Australia and wanting to immigrate for employment, Engineers Australia provides independent assurance and vetting of their education and training to uphold the strong standards of practice necessary to work in Australia. The migrant standards review program is a crucial government service which promotes workforce growth. The need for skilled workers continues to grow at a time when many countries are experiencing skills gaps, and this program caters to growing the field by looking outside of one’s own borders.

A third pillar for maintaining professional standards is the creation of a voluntary registration scheme called the National Engineering Register (NER). Unlike the United States and Canada, Australia does not usually require professional engineers to be registered to practice and the NER fills that critical void in legislation. But it doesn’t stop there: Engineers Australia is the leading advocate for government
intervention to fix this anomaly and is having some big wins. For example, in August, after months of political wrangling, it was central to the state of Victoria finally passing the Professional Engineers Registration Act 2019.

Combined, the domestic accreditation process, migrant review programs and advocacy for formal registration of engineers ensure that Engineers Australia delivers on its core principle from its 1938 Royal Charter which is to advance the science and practice of engineering for the benefit of the community. Both the existence of a Royal Charter and one that delineates the good of the community is rare, but has provided Engineers Australia a clear focus for their work, to which the end goal is protecting the community through setting and maintaining high professional standards for its members across all industries. Ensuring the built environment meets certain standards is crucial to safety, and Engineers Australia works towards ensuring baseline knowledge and skills in those completing these jobs—regardless of the geographic origin of their expertise.

Additionally, and in support of its adherence to the Royal Charter, Engineers Australia shares the voice and expertise of the industry with the government. This is done through conversations with the legislature on important issues ranging from climate change mitigation and adaptation, transformation of the power industry in Australia, or developing skills for the future and then spreading the word. It is
important that everyone from the legislature to the general public hear from experts to inform their opinion. Educating the public is the first step towards showcasing the critical nature of the engineering field and the importance of regulation and high-quality standards for practitioners. As a testament to the success of their advocacy efforts, a recent member assessment, found that over the past three years
the association had doubled the percentage of members who say the engineering profession has a voice in public life and policy.

Jonathan Russell, National Manager of Public Affairs for Engineers Australia, spoke with ASAE at the Annual Meeting and Exposition in Columbus, Ohio. He said that, “being the leader for advocacy on behalf of 100,000 engineers is a privilege. Those we represent are accomplished people and we add value by making sure they contribute to solutions for the big public issues of the day—especially when it
comes to public safety and securing a sustainable future.”

Through their accreditation programs and advocacy efforts, Engineers Australia is giving their members a voice in the future of their field as well as strengthening safety for the community —two core tenants of The Power of Associations.