Finger on the pulse | 26 July 2022

Explainer: The Professional Registration of Engineers Act, what it means, and how it will shape the industry

For the past two decades, peak Victorian engineering bodies have been campaigning for increased public safety and integrity in the sector through statutory registration. On 1 October, this advocacy will become reality – with the Professional Registration of Engineers Act 2019 taking effect, introducing mandatory registration for professional civil and structural engineers in Victoria.

But how will the law impact businesses, and how can you ready your team?

To answer these questions, we chatted to our General Manager of Operations, and President of the Association of Land Development Engineers (ALDE), Sehon Pellew.

The key facts of the Act

The Professional Registration of Engineers Act 2019 will require Victorian civil and structural engineers to be professionally registered. Taking effect on 1 October 2022, the registration scheme will encompass civil, structural, electrical, mechanical and fire safety engineering ultimately.

Registration includes engineers being assessed by an assessment entity on their education, experience, competence, ability to complete continuing hours of professional development, and compliance with a code of ethics.

Sehon says that for some engineers it will take up to six months to undertake the required assessment, while for others, it could take up to a few years.

It will apply to all Victorian engineers, except those who work under the direct supervision of a registered practising professional engineer, or only in accordance with a prescriptive standard.


“If you have someone in your organisation or delivery team who is registered, you can work under their supervision – as you work towards registration on your own accord,” says Sehon.


The mandatory registration dates differ across engineering specialities. You can find out the varying registration timelines here.

Behind the national (and international) reform

Since 1930, Queensland has enforced engineering registration. And in many other parts of the world, including Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and the European Union, professional engineering registration is standard.

Yet for several Australian states – like Victoria – the engineering sector has operated without a formal yardstick. Unfortunately, it’s taken some significant engineering failures, like the fiascos at Opal Tower and Mascot Towers, to illuminate the grave risks of this inertia.

For Sehon, a staunch supporter of the Act, mandatory registration is a long-overdue and much-needed step to ensure the industry’s integrity and protect the public.


“Before the legislation, anyone could call themselves an engineer. It’s taken some engineering faults, and the associated implications, to see the value of stringent rules in building a trusted
engineering field.”


“From these isolated engineering failures, momentum was built, and a case was established, for the Professional Registration of Engineers Act 2019” says Sehon.

Advocacy has been instrumental in driving this legislation, with Alesha Pitz, the General Manager of Engineers Australia in Victoria, acknowledging how collaborative discussions with government helped shape the Act.

Through these conversations and a broader consultation process, the Professional Registrations of Engineers Act 2019 was born. By stipulating certain experiences, competencies, qualifications, as well as a commitment to ethics and continued professional development, the Act will minimise risks associated with people operating outside their areas of practice, while also recognising the work of esteemed engineers. It’s a vital step to aligning Victoria with other Australian states – and the rest of the world.

Mounting pressure in an under resourced sector

While mandatory registration is a necessary measure for both the industry and community, it will place additional stresses on an already short-staffed sector.

Australian’s engineering shortage is at a ten-year high, with Engineers Australia reporting a 50% increase for job vacancies in 2021 compared to the year before. The most needed engineering disciplines in 2021 were civil engineers, followed by industrial, mechanical and production, then ICT support and test engineers.

Sehon says this highlights the urgency for competent engineers to ensure they’re registered.

 


“We already have a shortage of engineers. This new Act will potentially weed out some engineers, who could be providing value to the industry. That’s why organising registration is critical,” says Sehon.


By ensuring all skilled and eligible engineers are registered – or by otherwise working under the supervision of someone who is – we will shape a sector built on the highest level of confidence.

How to prepare your team (and what happens if you don’t)

The most important thing is to prepare your engineering teams for these new laws, says Sehon.

“Make sure your engineers know exactly what is involved in registration. Help support them through the process where you can, and guide them to relevant resources,” says Sehon.

Sehon’s other piece of advice as the Act is implemented? Expect uncertainty.

“When this new legislation takes effect, it might not be business as usual. We will have to see how the authorities administer the Act. Things might be unusual in the first few months, as we wade through this transition and navigate the change together,” says Sehon.

At Millar Merrigan, we’ve been preparing for this legislation to take effect. Our team has formed a working group to ensure we’re getting all qualified engineers up to speed and registered in the shortest amount of time.

“We’re also committed to the continuing professional development of all members of our team,” says Sehon.

We’re proud to be leading the way for this new legislation, which symbolises a profound step in ensuring the integrity of the engineering sector.

 

 

All Victorian civil and structural engineers must register with the Business Licensing Authority (BLA) by 1 October 2022. Find out more information on the new professional engineering requirements.

To stay informed on the latest industry developments, talk to our experts today.

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