There is a long and well documented fight between the NSPE as the “political arm” of professional engineering and various industry groups which have all but made “industrial exemption” here to stay. And speaking from the other side, guess how much support there is in industry for getting that PE? Is there a pay increase or even funding (and time allotted) for taking classes? I’ll give you a hint…been there, done that. Furthermore, does hiring an engineering firm versus a “consultant” have any merit to it whatsoever? I’ll give you a hint…been there, done that. And doesn’t an engineering firm by itself since they are third-party in nature and independent because of the NCEES ethics requirements guarantee that the workmanship is a cut above others? Again, been there, done that.

The answers at least from my point of view are that none of this is any kind of litmus test. In fact someitmes it seems to be almost the direct opposite of a litmus test…those without certification recognize the bigger hurdle to cross and put more effort into producing a good work product. If some kind of license or certification narrows the field of potential bidders significantly it tends to turn into a “good old boys club” and the quality goes totally out the window very quickly with no performance incentives.

And I agree with rubber stamping as far as certification goes, that’s very true. However even if the certification process of choice is possessing a PE, in itself that means nothing as well. As a simple practical matter you can’t get a license unless you’ve worked as an engineer to meet the on-the-job requirements. You can’t get that unless you work under the “industrial exemption” clause or under another PE’s license. Even then if you’ve ever worked with engineering firms then you know that there is a certain approach to doing business with them. They are used to an environment where you produce paper to fulfill a contract. As long as the paper quality is good enough to pass muster and get another contract, that is the minimum quality standard. Many companies insist on outside engineering groups or don’t have engineers on staff and hire whatever they can get, so the quality standard is extremely low. So this is how it played out for me. We hire an engineering firm to do the engineering for a project. The firm comes to me and gets me to do all their research for them. They write it all up and pass it back to us for “checking”. They did a crap job so I spend so much time getting them to do it correctly that it’s easier to just do it myself. So the end result is that hiring an outside engineering firm which is supposed to reduce my workload actually triples it since instead I’m doing all the engineering and I’m doing all the documentation and I’m also spending all kinds of time in meetings, writing E-mails, etc., so that the engineering firm gets credit for my work. Mind you it’s not the 3% of good engineering firms that I have a problem with. It’s the 97% that do the crap jobs that actually cost me time and money. The problem of course is that this gets results and time and again, “engineering managers” and “purchasing managers” buy into this crap. So time and again I get shafted with dealing with these idiots. Unlike the engineering firm, I am the one responsible for ensuring that we get a quality work product out. If it doesn’t work, I’m answering for it. If it doesn’t work, I’m the one spending my midnights and weekends away from my family (and bed) in the trenches with the maintenance guys getting it up and running. I’m the guy that has to work with production training them how to work around the design defects and having to explain why we can’t spend an more money to fix it right. They’re just responsible for generating billable hours and once the dollars are exhausted, they move on and never get called to the job again.

One of the qualifications I use for engineering firms by the way is that I read their resumes. If I get 3 pages of contract after contract and the person has not had one shred of experience working outside of an engineering firm, the resume goes to the trash can. There is no reason to even bother interviewing them. They have never, ever had any experience with taking ownership of anything and never will, so there is no incentive for them to do anything other than bill hours to a job. They got the PE by virtue of how much money they brought in for the engineering firm, not b virtue of workmanship. And who knows how many of those contracts on their resume resulted in dissatisfied customers. READ MORE