The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is reaffirming its support of an engineering licensing policy known as the industrial exemption, while continuing to strongly encourage individual engineers to pursue licensure. The industrial exemption policy excludes industrial employers from requirements to hire only engineers who hold professional licensure in the states in which they are employed.
A major element in the AIChE leaders’ support for the industrial exemption is the fact that so many companies operate in several states, while there is a lack of uniformity in licensing laws and regulations among the states.
“Requiring multiple licenses in multiple jurisdictions can create an unnecessary burden on individual engineers and on companies, while really providing no additional benefit to the public,” said June Wispelwey, AIChE executive director. As the U.S. industrial and manufacturing base seeks to reassert its competitiveness, “placing additional hurdles to job creation and job mobility seems ill-advised,” Wispelwey added. She explained that reciprocity — cross-jurisdictional concessions by engineering boards to welcome practitioners licensed in others locations — is not readily accessible to individual engineers because of procedural hurdles.
Wispelwey observed, however, that if more uniform standards and reciprocity were available, the Institute might reconsider the need for the industrial exemption.
In its statement, AIChE also emphasized that it continues to strongly encourage its members to pursue professional engineering licensure. Professional Engineering (P.E.) licensure certifies that an engineer in a given field is fully competent and knowledgeable in his or her specialization, and is prepared to practice the trade safely, effectively, and ethically. All engineering licensing boards across the U.S. require that, in the absence of the industrial exemption, a licensed engineer be in responsible charge over the design of buildings, structures, products, machines, processes and systems that affect the public health, safety and welfare.
The industrial exemption, though, permits competent and skilled engineers to work in positions of responsible charge even if they do not hold a P.E. license. AIChE concluded that properly insured firms have a vested interest in protecting the safety and welfare of their employees, their facilities, and the general public. Such companies must have in place the necessary policies, procedures, and safeguards to assure compliance with laws, public safety standards, and industry best practices. Many firms provide extensive in-house training to assure that their staffs fulfill such requirements.
Professional engineering societies, like AIChE, also have Codes of Ethics that place safety, environmental, ethical and other requirements on their members. Additionally, there is a growing trend toward jurisdiction-independent, specialized credential programs that are offered by professional societies in areas such as sustainability and safety.
“While it might seem like a simple solution to just require all engineers to obtain and maintain a P.E. license in order to practice engineering, the current situation is very fractured with more than 50 licensing boards across the U.S., each with a different set of licensing rules and regulations that establish who can practice engineering and where,” said Joseph Cramer, a past director and former head of technical programming for AIChE.
“Chemical engineers tend to be very mobile—both geographically, but also across industrial sectors,” Wispelwey said. That technical diversity requires a commitment to lifelong learning and to maintaining expertise, she explained.
AIChE’s complete position statement on the industrial exemption can be read at www.aiche.org/news.
About AIChE: AIChE is a professional society of more than 45,000 chemical engineers in 100 countries. Its members work in corporations, universities and government using their knowledge of chemical processes to develop safe and useful products for the benefit of society. Through its varied programs, AIChE continues to be a focal point for information exchange on the frontiers of chemical engineering research in such areas as energy, sustainability, biological and environmental engineering, nanotechnology and chemical plant safety and security. More information about AIChE is available at www.aiche.org.