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Updating the IEA’s Graduate Attributes and Professional Competencies Framework

2020.11.19

Engineers Canada is a member of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA), a global non-profit organization with seven international agreements governing mutual recognition of engineering qualifications and professional competence. Engineers Canada is a signatory to the IEA’s Washington Accord, International Professional Engineers Agreement, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Engineers Agreement.

One of the IEA tools for establishing and enforcing international standards for engineering education and competence is the Graduate Attribute and Professional Competencies (GAPC) framework. This framework is an important foundation for establishing the substantial equivalencies of the international academic and professional competency agreements. Within Canada, the framework provides a benchmark for regulators and reflects the qualifications assessments performed by Admissions staff.

In November 2019, the IEA established a working group with the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) and UNESCO to update the GAPC framework. The working group has been consulting with the IEA members on six main areas of change:

  • Accommodate future needs of engineering professionals and the profession: strengthen the required attributes on teamwork, communication, ethics, sustainability.
  • Emerging technologies: incorporate digital learning, active work experience, lifelong learning.
  • Emerging and future engineering disciplines and practice areas: while retaining discipline independent approach, enhance the skills on data sciences, other sciences, life-long learning.
  • Incorporate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: when developing solutions, consider the technical, environment, social, cultural, economic, financial, and global responsibility impacts.
  • Diversity and inclusion: include these considerations within ways of working in teams and within systems of communication, compliance, environment, and legal.
  • Intellectual agility, creativity, and innovation: emphasize critical thinking and innovative processes in design and development of solutions.

According to the IEA’s working group, the inclusion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) creates opportunities for advancement through engineering solutions. The UNSDG are intended to improve standards and quality of living for everyone by addressing global challenges related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. Engineers and geoscientists, in following their responsibilities under their professional codes of ethics, are stewards for many of these issues and perform work that protects the public and address large-scale pressing challenges of our societies. The working group is still considering the feedback from its earlier round of consultations about the need and methodology of implementing the UNSDG directly into the GAPC and whether they need to be mentioned explicitly.

To incorporate the main areas of change, the working group is evaluating each of the five tables that make up the framework:

  • Range of problem solving capabilities: problem solving capabilities that distinguish the 4-5-year programs with engineer graduates from those that have a teaching duration of 3-4 years for technologists or 2 years for graduating technicians.
  • Range of engineering activities: complex activities for an engineer, broadly-defined activities for a technologist, and well-defined activities for a technician.
  • Knowledge and attitude profile: can be viewed as describing what the curriculum of an engineering program must contain at a minimum.
  • Graduate attribute profiles: the qualifications (assimilated knowledge, skills, and attitudes) of an engineer or technologist or technician at the time of graduation.
  • Professional competency profiles: the competencies for a qualified engineer/technologist/technician attained, not only during school education but also, through lifelong learning and professional development.

In August, with the input of some regulators’ Admissions Officials Engineers Canada provided comments on the proposed table changes to the WFEO. The Executive Committee of the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board will also be submitting their feedback shortly. Consultation on the proposed changes is being held with IEA members until December 2020. A decision paper about the proposed changes to the GAPC framework is expected for the annual IEA Meeting and the WFEO Executive Meeting in 2021.

Work on this framework began in 2001 and the current version dates from 2013. The framework is periodically reviewed to ensure it remains contemporary, providing engineers with the tools to practice and advance the profession and fulfill employer needs. The growth of new technologies, demand for multidisciplinary talents, the increasing complexity of engineering problems, and changing work habits are just some of the trends that the revised GAPC framework intends to address.

Additional Resources:

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

UNESCO Report. Engineering: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities for Development. (2010). Available upon request.

World Federation of Engineering Organizations. Consultation on the Proposed Updated IEA Benchmark for Graduate Attributes and Professional Competencies.