JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Professional Engineers Registration Board (PERB) is taking steps to make sure that the local industry’s high standards are maintained and are on par with international benchmarks.
  • This is the word from the newly appointed Chairman of the body, Omar Sweeney, who tells JIS News that this is being pursued through stakeholder collaboration and legislation relating to training and retraining of professionals.
  • He notes that the objective is to protect the professional standards of the industry.

The Professional Engineers Registration Board (PERB) is taking steps to make sure that the local industry’s high standards are maintained and are on par with international benchmarks.

This is the word from the newly appointed Chairman of the body, Omar Sweeney, who tells JIS News that this is being pursued through stakeholder collaboration and legislation relating to training and retraining of professionals.

He notes that the objective is to protect the professional standards of the industry.

“In so doing, this will go a far way in ensuring that an engineer in Jamaica is considered on the same level as an engineer in the United Kingdom, Canada or the United States. This is how you ensure that the standard is maintained, or what the industry stakeholders call reciprocity,” he outlines.

PERB is the government body that regulates the engineering profession. Members and their firms must register, and re-register annually, in order to be able to legally practise in Jamaica.

The Board collaborates with the University Council of Jamaica and other academic institutions to ensure that persons meet the qualifying standards.

Mr. Sweeney, who is also the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Managing Director, points out that a key area for PERB is ensuring that registered practising engineers have access to or avail themselves of ongoing Continuing Education Unit (CEU) training.

A CEU is a unit of credit equal to 10 hours of participation in an accredited programme designed for professionals with certificates or licences to practise various professions.

It is a measure used in continuing education programmes to assist a professional to maintain his or her licence.

“We want to ensure that when they (engineers) re-register, they would have been keeping themselves up to date on the latest techniques… because it’s an ever-evolving industry… [so] that when they offer their services, the public is really getting the highest standard of service,” the Chairman points out.

Institutionalisation of continuing education is one of the key components of proposed regulations for the Professional Engineering Registration Act (PERA) that governs the local industry.

Mr. Sweeny informs that drafting of the regulations has been completed and they are slated to be piloted in Parliament.

He explains that the regulations will establish the parameters for acknowledging engineers participating in continuing education programmes consistent with global standards.

These parameters, the Chairman outlines, include scoring and assessment systems, as well as grading of persons or institutions offering or facilitating CEU training.

Mr. Sweeny tells JIS News that this is necessary to ensure the degree of uniformity that enables local engineers desirous of working in other countries to do so without having to necessarily qualify through local exams or interviews in those jurisdictions.

“So, just as how engineers from overseas are now able to come into Jamaica and practise, we want our engineers to be able to go, for example, into mainland Europe, the United Kingdom or North

America and be able to practise, based on the standards that we have here. Of course, this will redound to the further upliftment of our industry and infrastructure, which are of a very high standard,” he explains.

He says that an important aspect is the facilitation of a process that enables persons to log on to the PERB’s website and register CEUs, which will count towards their re-registration.

Mr. Sweeney tells JIS News that significant work was done by the Board to develop the regulations, noting that the provisions cover the wide-ranging disciplines in the engineering field, including the chemical, civil and mechanical components.

He points out that the PERA and its regulations will complement the Building Act and its proposed regulations, noting that when the latter is passed and fully implemented, “it is going to properly structure the roles and responsibilities of the different professionals in the built environment”.

These professionals include architects, contractors and draftsmen.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sweeney is hailing the positive developments in education and training of engineers, citing the recent launch of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus’ Engineering Faculty, and establishment of the Festo Authorised and Certified Training (FACT) Centre at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), which offers global training and certification in industrial automation, mechatronics, and pneumatics.

“To compete globally, you’re going to need state-of-the-art infrastructure and state-of-the-art systems. But you also have to have persons who can apply science and mathematics to solve some of today’s problems,” he notes.

“The training institutions have to be upgraded… . You have seen that… our infrastructure has to be upgraded and you have seen where that is being upgraded. Now, we have to ensure that the engineering industry is properly regulated [and] properly structured to ensure that as people move around and attempt to do things, there are not obstacles and roadblocks,” the Chairman adds.

Other members of the PERB are Glaister Ricketts, Colin Porter, Dr. Nicholas McMorris, Gary Walters, Orette Parker, Christopher Burgess, Nicole Burgher, and Professor Nilza Aples.

The Board’s Secretariat, which is located at 11 Leinster Road, Kingston 5, is headed by Registrar, Heather Clarke, who is ably supported by a competent administrative staff.