Local Engineers Seek Access to International Treaty


The Professional Engineers Registration Board (PERB) is aiming to have Jamaica accede to an agreement known as the Washington Accord, which would give locally registered engineers the recognition they need to work abroad. This was revealed by Leo Lawson, Chairman of the Registration Act Enforcement Committee of PERB and Head of the National Contracts Commission, at a JIS Think Tank recently.
He said that currently, eight countries were signatory to the agreement and they have consented to recognise the academic qualifications of engineering graduates from accredited programmes in member countries.
The eight countries are Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and China.
Should Jamaica become party to this agreement, Mr. Lawson explained, then local engineers who seek employment abroad would not have to sit the required examinations in those countries to gain professional status.
Stating that the move was aimed at “promoting the portability of our professional engineers,” Mr. Lawson said consulting engineering firms and contractors in Jamaica might win contracts abroad and would be able to go overseas and work, as they would be readily recognised as qualified professionals.
He noted however, “while we in Jamaica may recognise the professional status of an engineer from another country and use this as a basis for registering such a person as a professional engineer, professional engineers registered in Jamaica do not enjoy reciprocal treatment when they wish to work overseas”.
To gain admission to the Washington Accord, Mr. Lawson pointed out that Jamaica would have to obtain the nomination of at least two existing signatories and receive a positive vote from at least two thirds of the members.
In achieving this vote of confidence, Mr. Lawson said that Jamaica must establish and demonstrate a proven track record of the necessary equivalent standards as those that existed in the member countries. PERB would also need to take on the responsibility of accrediting the engineering programmes at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Technology (UTech).
“Currently, these programmes are accredited by overseas teams from Britain, but if Jamaica is to become a member of the Washington Accord, then Jamaica would have to do its own accreditation”, Mr. Lawson explained.
In preparing itself to take on the responsibility of certifying university programmes, PERB has established an Engineering Programmes Accreditation Committee (EPAC). Members of this committee have been sent to observe the certification procedures of British accrediting teams at UTech and at UWI’s St. Augustine campus in Trinidad. The committee has also established a Manual of Accreditation Procedures to be used when the responsibility of accrediting engineering programmes passes to PERB.
“This manual deals with criteria such as the standards for admission of students to the engineering course; the quality of the academic staff; the facilities available, such as laboratories as well as the support systems for the programmes”, Mr. Lawson explained. He added that PERB would only be recognising institutions that offer four-year programmes.
He pointed out however, that in cases where a programme was not accredited, PERB would make available a facility for persons to sit a special examination, “which can make up for deficiencies in that programme”.
Mr. Lawson informed that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was also looking at the possibility of the region working towards the goal of acceding to the Washington Accord as a unified body. “Caribbean engineering organisations are trying to see if as a group, we could gain access to the Washington Accord, which would also further the objective of easy interchange among CARICOM countries”. PERB, an agency of the Ministry of Transport and Works, was established in 1987 to administer the Professional Engineers Registration Act and to regulate the engineering profession in Jamaica. The Board is responsible for registering persons to practice as professional engineers under any of the 15 engineering categories that are under its jurisdiction. The Act makes it unlawful for persons to offer engineering services to the public without first being registered as a professional engineer.

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