Browse through the frequently asked questions on the CPEng review proposal.
Do you have a question that’s not answered below? Email us and we’ll add it to this list.
Need for change
Why does CPEng need to change?
We know that the public and regulators don’t have enough confidence in the current system. This is due to high-profile failures that have received substantial media coverage, starting with the CTV Building but also over the past few years. It’s meant regulators have started to create their own parallel systems, like Auckland Council’s list of “approved” engineers. CPEng isn’t fit for purpose – and there is also confusion about its intended role. We want to fix this.
Will the proposal create a dumbed-down CPEng compared to what currently exists?
No, that’s definitely not the intention – we are looking to raise the bar. This means that it will potentially be harder to gain CPEng, particularly with respect to any class of registration that is developed.
Why haven’t you made changes to CPEng sooner?
We’ve been expecting regulatory change given previous signals from the Government, especially the consultation in 2019. But given this has taken so long, we’ve decided to change what’s in our control now, rather than wait any longer. We’re hearing really strongly from our technical groups that this is urgent and we need to respond to that feedback.
Why are you consulting rather than just going ahead and making the changes?
We know that many people see the need for change and would like it to happen quickly. But CPEng and member feedback is a really important part of this process, and we need to get the proposals right. Consultation is also required under the Act to change the Rules. Once we have heard people’s views, we will look to implement change quickly if that is supported.
What will change?
What are you proposing?
Our discussion document contains 18 proposals for change, including changes to the assessment and reassessment processes. They also include introducing classes of CPEng that set clear competence requirements for specific disciplines and have their own postnominal; for example, CPEng (Structural) or CPEng (Fire). This would set a higher and more clearly defined bar, developed in conjunction with technical groups.
And we’re proposing changes to the complaints and appeals process that will make them more efficient and proportionate.
At the same time, we want to make the general CPEng a respected quality mark that professional engineers of all disciplines strive for. This would pave the way for changes to our membership pathway in the future.
Will you introduce a written exam?
Perhaps – we would want to develop robust assessment options for any classes of registration in consultation with technical groups. We’re interested in your feedback on this.
Will fewer people pass CPEng?
Potentially yes, especially on their first try. At the moment, nearly everyone passes, and we’ve heard feedback from our technical groups that this indicates the bar isn’t high enough. Our proposals will change the assessment process in support of raising the bar; for example, people won’t have the same virtually unlimited opportunities to resubmit material.
New classes of CPEng
Why are you proposing new classes of CPEng?
In conjunction with technical groups, we are developing Bodies of Knowledge and Skills for specific disciplines. We want to make it clear when people are assessed against those BOKS, which provides more assurance that they can do specific work. This will set a higher bar for these disciplines and provide greater assurance of competence for regulators and the public.
What disciplines will have classes of CPEng?
At the moment, we have developed BOKS for structural, geotechnical and fire, so these would be the disciplines we start with. We do envisage BOKS being developed for other disciplines, in conjunction with the relevant technical groups, especially if those groups see a need.
What’s the difference between CPEng and a specific class of CPEng?
General CPEng will remain, although we are looking at changes to assessments and process in support of raising the bar. If you do specific work, for example, structural design, and there is a relevant class of CPEng, eg CPEng (Structural), then you would apply for that class not for general CPEng. We expect regulators will come to only accept structural work from people with CPEng (Structural).
Can you have more than one class of CPEng?
Potentially yes, as long as you have completed the separate assessments for each class.
How will councils/other regulators know what qualification/post nominal to accept for sign off?
Once we’ve heard your feedback and determined the way forward, we need to make the changes to CPEng. And then we would communicate clearly to regulators and other stakeholders, including clients, about any new system and what it means for them. This is a really important part of making any changes.
When will this be introduced and how will the transition from the current system work?
First, we need to hear what you think to decide next steps. We’ll be assessing all the feedback we get in early 2021. If we change the system, then we need to make sure that existing CPEngs aren’t unfairly disadvantaged. We’d work through what that transition would look like with our technical groups and in consultation with BCAs/other regulators – and it would be phased and fair.
Would annual audits be as effective as reassessment every six years?
It’s not an either/or. Some audits would lead to reassessment. The overall impact is better targeting assessment effort where the risk is higher – because of concerns or because an engineer is working in a high-risk area – as well as maintaining a degree of random assessment. The current system of reassessment is highly resource-intensive and just isn’t delivering the kind of outcomes that support trust and confidence in the profession.
How would audits work? What exactly would be audited?
This is something we’ll be working on further if engineers support the proposals.
Would CPEngs only be reassessed if red flags were raised or they did not pass the audit?
Those people would be reassessed – but there would also be a degree of random reassessment that could capture anyone.
CPEng and membership
Is the plan that people who are currently Chartered Member will transition to CPEng?
When we created Chartered Member in 2017, it was with the understanding that CPEng would be repealed in the near future. This hasn’t happened as we expected so we need to reconsider Chartered Member in light of the confusion between it and CPEng. Having one unambiguous Chartered quality mark is the ideal. There are ways to tweak CPEng so that it appeals to people who previously didn’t see it as relevant.
What will happen to Chartered Member?
We are really interested in feedback on this. There are several options, including removing it or modifying it. We have heard strongly that, if CPEng continues to exist, having Chartered Member creates confusion.
In terms of technologists, technicians and engineering geologists who are Chartered Members in their respective categories, if Chartered Member ceased to exist then we must create an appropriate alternative quality mark. This could be registers, with titles like Chartered Technologist, Chartered Technicians and Chartered Engineering Geologist.
Wouldn’t creating registers for technologists, technicians and engineering geologists be returning to the status quo before 2017?
Superficially yes, although these registers would be different from the ones disestablished in 2017 and there would be a single unambiguous, Chartered quality mark for each occupational group, rather than the competence-based membership classes and registers that existed prior to 2017.
If you create a closer relationship between CPEng and membership, what about people who are CPEng but don’t want to be a member?
They would be able to opt out. In practice, very few people are CPEngs who are not members: As of 4 November 2020, 97% of people with CPEng are also members (3867 of 3991).
Will I still get my CPEng certificate in December?
Yes, although we are keen to save a few trees deliver these in an appropriate online format.
When will the change be implemented?
In early 2021, we will consider next steps after analysing the feedback we’ve received. If change then occurs, it will be implemented in a fair and phased way with input from relevant technical groups.
What if I’m half way through an assessment?
Government plans for regulation
Why did you proceed with Chartered Member in 2017 if there was a chance that CPEng wouldn’t be repealed?
We had positive signals at the time that our direction was the right one.
Isn’t there a chance that the Government will now come out with plans that conflict with the reform of CPEng?
We know the Government continues to work on how to regulate engineers. But we have also heard very strongly from technical groups that we can’t wait any longer for reform. We need to raise the bar in the parts of the system that we control. We have shared our plans for reform with MBIE ahead of this consultation.
What is the Government planning?
We know that the Government shares our goal of having a system that the public and regulators can trust and have confidence in, and that works for engineers. We understand that its plans have evolved since the 2019 proposals that were publicly consulted. We look forward to more information being shared. Whatever the Government proposes will take some time to come into effect, whereas there are some changes to CPEng that we can make relatively quickly.
Have you consulted with the Government on the proposal to reform CPEng?
We have shared our discussion document with MBIE and the Chartered Professional Engineers Council, and received positive feedback.