To provide professional engineering services in Queensland, engineers need to be registered. We speak to AusIMM assessor Peter Hills about the process.
The Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland (BPEQ) is striving to improve the Queensland mining industry’s compliance with the Professional Engineers Act 2002.
In doing so, the independent statutory body is encouraging more mining engineers to register themselves as part of the registered professional engineer Queensland (RPEQ) system.
Despite engineers’ importance to mining, the industry does not have the same representation of RPEQs as other sectors and given engineering misconduct can have major consequences to health and safety, as well as project integrity, registration is critical.
Becoming an RPEQ is a four-stage process. Once an engineer has graduated from a recognised tertiary institute with a four-year undergraduate degree in engineering (or equivalent), they will then need to gain 4–5 years’ experience working as an engineer and carrying out professional engineering services under supervision.
The application and assessment process can then commence; however, it is advised that engineers should start preparations long before they are ready to apply.
This starts with the continuing professional development (CPD) logbook where engineers must complete a minimum of 150 hours of structured CPD in a three-year period leading up to their application.
The logbook enables engineers to keep track of their experiences during their studies and early working life, whether it be attending workshops, conferences and events, preparing and presenting papers, or logging course units from university.
Engineers previously had an obligation to complete the CPD logbook, but it was not a requirement for the application process. That changed in 2015 when it was found a higher percentage of engineers weren’t passing their first audit and not keeping track of the required CPDs and hours of work connected to this.
Peter Hills, Pitt & Sherry senior principal geotechnical engineer and Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) assessor for BPEQ, said engineers who can demonstrate their technical experience would be better positioned come the assessment.
“There are 10 categories for professional development that underpin the RPEQ, and the value of those various categories depends on the degree of technical involvement and activity from the person involved,” he told Australian Mining.
“So undertaking further university study, undertaking short courses, attending conferences, giving papers, and so forth are worth a lot more and you can do as much of those as you like.
“The easier activities such as private reading and on-the-job skill enhancement are limited in how many hours you can do, and we have tailored the scheme to weight towards the more active, getting-involved and learning-new-things-type activities.”
Once the engineer has satisfied the initial examination regarding their CPD logbook, a registered assessor will consider their sponsors.
“Engineers are required to have three sponsors who they nominate, and the assessors make contact with the sponsors and obtain feedback from them on the capability of the individual,” Hills said.
“If the sponsors are an RPEQ or a chartered professional, that rates a lot higher in the assessment than if it’s someone at a similar level.”
Once assessors are satisfied with an engineer’s sponsors they will then proceed to an interview where they will be asked about the documentation they’ve provided, that they understand what being an RPEQ entails and their responsibilities under the Professional Engineers Act 2002.
If the interview is successful, the assessor will recommend the engineer to the BPEQ, which will enable them the right to register as an RPEQ.
Hills said it was important for any budding mining engineer interested in becoming an RPEQ to be vigilant about their preparations.
“The important thing not only individuals should be aware of but also companies with new graduates, is the requirement to work towards it (the RPEQ),” he said. “Because if you don’t have your three years of professional development logged when you apply, then you’re already three years away from a successful application.
“People need to be thinking about that … pretty much from day one and their mentors and managers should be pushing them in that direction to make sure they’re doing that.”
It’s also important engineers have clarity about the process of becoming an RPEQ and that their achievements recorded in the CPD logbook align with what’s required by the BPEQ. This is accessible via AusIMM.
“People need to look at the information on chartered professionals and registration on the AusIMM website as soon as they start thinking about becoming an RPEQ,” Hills said.
“They need to be quite clear on what they’re doing in terms of professional development so that from day one they’re doing relevant stuff.”
This feature appeared in the June issue of Australian Mining.