Regulatory authorities are often thought of as no more than a bureaucratic burden. While working professionals may lament the time and costs associated with regulation, there are many benefits to the profession and the public.
Professional regulation distinguishes qualified and competent professionals by restricting the practice of services to select individuals. Regulatory requirements are set by legislation which is administered by a regulatory authority. As part of most professional regulatory requirements, individuals must be able to meet educational, experience and fitness to practise requirements set by their peers.
To satisfy these requirements regulated professionals may have to complete exams or be assessed by a panel of their peers. Often, regulated professionals will need to undertake continuing training and development to ensure they remain qualified and competent.
Regulators set the standards of professional and ethical conduct. This is achieved through a code of practice or similar. Codes of practice provide practical advice to professionals about appropriate conduct and practice. Through a code of practice, a profession shows it recognises its responsibility to the public to ensure the actions of its professionals promote safety, integrity, and fairness, thereby encouraging public confidence in the profession. A professional’s quality of service and behaviour is judged against the code of practice. If a professional is thought to have breached this code (e.g. by providing an unsatisfactory service to a client) then a complaint can be made. A professional regulator can investigate complaints of unsatisfactory professional conduct and, if appropriate, take disciplinary action (i.e. caution or reprimand).
It is this accountability that so greatly maintains and enhances the public’s confidence in the profession. It evidences the confidence of regulated professionals in the standard of services they provide. Regulated professionals are so confident in their conduct and that their services will be delivered to an acceptable standard that they offer themselves up for judgment should that not be the case.
Professional regulation is particularly important for professions like engineering. The definitions of ‘engineering’ or ‘engineer’ are vague and are used as catch all terms for various trade services. Queensland regulates the profession of engineering as a way of distinguishing qualified and competent professional engineers from those who are not.
Engineers who meet regulatory requirements are registered with the Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland (BPEQ) and earn the title Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ). Only once an engineer has earned the title RPEQ can they legally provide professional engineering services in Queensland or for a Queensland project.
Regulation is fundamental to being a professional; it distinguishes a professional from an occupation and is necessary to protect the public, maintain public confidence, and in setting and upholding professional standards.
Dawson Wilkie is BPEQ’s Chairman and regional representative.
BPEQ is Queensland’s engineering regulator. BPEQ has administered the Professional Engineers Act (PE Act) and the RPEQ system since 1930.
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