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National guideline on continuing professional development and continuing competence for professional engineers

October, 2004



Engineers Canada’s national guidelines, model guides, and white papers were developed by engineers in collaboration with the provincial and territorial engineering regulators. They are intended to promote consistent practices across the country. They are not regulations or rules; they seek to define or explain discrete topics related to the practice and regulation of professional engineering in Canada.

The national guidelines, model guides, and white papers do not establish a legal standard of care or conduct, and they do not include or constitute legal or professional advice.   

In Canada, engineering is regulated under provincial and territorial law by the engineering regulators. The recommendations contained in the national guidelines, model guides and white papers may be adopted by the engineering regulators in whole, in part, or not at all. The ultimate authority regarding the propriety of any specific practice or course of conduct lies with the engineering regulator in the province or territory where the engineer works, or intends to work.  

About this Guideline

This national guideline was prepared by the Qualifications Board (QB) and provides guidance to regulators in consultation with them. Readers are encouraged to consult their regulators’ related engineering acts, regulations and bylaws in conjunction with this guideline.

About Engineers Canada

Engineers Canada is the national organization of the provincial and territorial associations that regulate the practice of engineering in Canada and license the country's 290,000 members of the engineering profession.

About the Qualifications Board

QB is a committee of the Engineers Canada Board and is a volunteer-based organization that provides national leadership and recommendations to regulators on the practice of engineering in Canada by:

  • developing new national guidelines, model guides, and white papers on admission, training, practice and new areas of practice in Canada as well as maintaining the existing national guidelines and model guides;
  • developing and maintaining syllabi for the assessment of international engineering graduates;
  • organizing national events where professionals in similar areas of work can share information on similar issues as well as best practices; and
  • conducting research, monitoring and providing advice on key issues and trends for Engineers Canada and regulators.

2 Purpose and objectives

The purpose of this guideline is to articulate the mechanisms the regulators may use to encourage and monitor the competence of engineers within their jurisdiction.

The specific objectives of this guideline are to:

  • guide the regulators in the development of programs that support and promote the continuing professional development and competency of engineers; and,
  • guide engineers in developing, assessing and managing their professional development as necessary to maintain and further their competency.

Implementation of programs that follow the principles and suggested practices explained in this guideline should enhance public confidence in engineers and add value to the individual engineer and the profession.

3 Introduction

This guideline defines the Practice of Professional Engineering as:

  • The “practice of professional engineering” means any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising, or managing any of the foregoing:
  • that requires the application of engineering principles; and,
  • that concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment.

Individual regulators have their own legal definitions that may differ slightly from the national definition. This definition serves as the foundation to define, articulate and evaluate the practice of engineering by individual engineers to help ensure their continued competence as well as further their career development.

The regulators assess the academic credentials and pre-licensing experience and knowledge of new entrants to the profession. Admission standards are based on the definition of engineering. The process and standards ensure that engineers are qualified and competent at the start of their professional careers. However, engineering education does not stop after graduation nor does it stop with obtaining a license to practice. It is essential to keep up with change.

  • The requirement to maintain the competence has its roots in the social contract that is implied between engineers and the public through engineering Acts, By-Laws and Regulations. The social contract implies that the engineer, by virtue of his/her training, experience and knowledge of the limitations of their abilities will deliver, and continue to deliver competent services. By doing so, the engineer has earned the public trust as expressed through self-regulation. However, public trust in self-regulated professions in general has been eroded in recent years and there are demands for changes in the social contract for increased accountability of individual.
  • The demonstration of continuing competency fulfills the increasing demands from the public for greater accountability. Through the privilege of self-governance, the standard established for continued competency of engineers is determined by a reasonable and competent group of peers within the engineering profession. These standards must be dynamic and change over time as new techniques, practices and materials are accepted.
  • If engineers are to maximize their potential for lifetime employability and to fulfill the social contract as members of the self-regulated engineering profession, it is essential to maintain high levels of competence by continually improving knowledge and skills. To promote the maintenance of competence among established engineers and to maintain public confidence, the profession must make a concerted effort to support the efforts of individual engineers.

Almost all the provincial and territorial engineering Acts contain clauses requiring the continuing competence of their engineers. The requirement is often expressed in written Codes of Ethics that require engineers to practice strictly within their area of competence and to maintain and enhance this competence throughout their careers as engineers. Codes of Ethics have legal status since they are established through the engineering Acts and/or Regulations of individual provinces and territories.

Maintaining competence is not entirely a voluntary activity. As members of a profession, engineers enjoy the privilege of self-regulation, a privilege accompanied by a corresponding duty to maintain competence as defined in Codes of Ethics as well as Codes of Professional Conduct. The latter requires engineers to only undertake work in which they are competent to perform by virtue of their training and expertise.

The degree to which a member’s competency is maintained and enhanced is a function of the degree to which a member’s professional development activities supports or enhances his/her practice. CPD may be seen as a component of Continuing Competence or, alternatively, Continuing Competence as the objective or an outcome of CPD.

A structured approach to professional development will enable the engineer to demonstrate continuing competence and by implication a continuing commitment to the profession. The professional practice of regularly reviewing their competence and selecting appropriate learning activities will give an engineer’s career focus and meaning.

This guideline offers two programs, the CPD Program and the Continuing Competence Program, each of which offers different levels of service from the regulators to support the engineer in his/her duty towards maintaining and enhancing their competence while at the same time meeting the expectations of the public for competent engineering.

From a regulator perspective, the two programs may be viewed as progressive steps, or stages, towards the goal of maintaining and advancing the competence of its engineers. CPD is the first stage, and addresses the continuing need for education, training and experience for the individual engineer. All regulators should have, at minimum, a CPD program. It may be voluntary or mandatory depending on the needs and available resources of the regulator. The elements of a CPD Program are defined at different levels for individual engineers and the regulators/ operating the program. These levels are described in Section 5.

Continuing Competence Programs are the second stage of what a regulator can do towards the goal of maintaining and advancing the competence of its engineers. A Continuing Competence Program would normally include a CPD Program as a component. The participation of registered engineers is normally mandatory. The components of a Continuing Competence Program are described in Section 6. This guideline uses a number of terms and acronyms, which are defined in Appendix A.

4 Responsibility

4.1 Responsibility of the engineer

Responsibility for assessing and maintaining an appropriate level of competence rests with the individual engineer.

The level of competence to be applied in a specific application of engineering practice will depend on the nature and complexity of the work undertaken. It is also the responsibility of each engineer to decide whether a specific project is within his or her training and experience.

Engineers should be prepared to demonstrate to their clients and/or supervisors, as well as their regulators, their individual commitment to this ethical principle.

4.2 Responsibility of the regulator

Each regulator, as a self-regulating body, is charged by statute to serve and protect the public interest by:

  • Regulating the practice of professional engineering;
  • Establishing and maintaining minimum standards of practice and qualification of its members; and,
  • Establishing and maintaining a code of ethics among its members.

As such, regulators must be active and be seen to be active in the establishment of an approach to encourage and promote the continued competence of their members. Individual engineers, the public, government, employers, and clients are increasingly aware of the rate of change in our knowledge-based industries. These stakeholders expect that steps will be taken by the regulators to ensure the competence of engineers is maintained. It is not enough to rely on disciplinary activities or the motivation of individual engineers. Rather, it is prudent for regulators to have mechanisms in place to promote the competence of their practicing members.

The regulators have a responsibility to foster, promote, and provide recognition of the continuing education and professional development of engineers. In so doing, it is important that regulators adopt systems, which focus on substantive results. Regulators play a critical role in the provision of guidance to individual members. For example, regulators may review the quality of continuing education and professional development programs and courses offered by learned societies and educational institutions with a view to endorsing them to their members.

4.3 Responsibility of the engineer as a peer

Engineers have a responsibility to keep abreast of developments in their areas of practice. They should support and provide opportunities for continuing education, professional development, and advancement of their associates and subordinates. Engineers should extend the effectiveness of their profession through the exchange of engineering information and experience.

4.4 Role of employers of engineers

Employers of engineers are encouraged to support and promote the participation of employee engineers in activities that maintain and advance their professional development. They also share a responsibility to maintain a work environment in which the continued competence of engineers is supported.

4.5 Role of learned societies and educational institutions

Learned and engineering societies and educational institutions should offer a wide range of services that can be used by engineers to maintain and improve their professional development and or competence. These services may be technical, managerial, or professional in nature.

5 Continuing professional development programs

Poet and philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future.” Life long learning is an ongoing process and continues throughout an engineer’s career. The purpose of life long learning is to ensure capabilities are commensurate with the current standards of others in the same field. Life long learning will help safeguard the employer, the public and the engineer’s career.

CPD encompasses the planned acquisition of knowledge, experience and skills and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout an engineer’s professional life. It encompasses both technical and non-technical skills. CPD is a vital tool for maintaining and developing the professional competence, innovation and creativity of an individual engineer. CPD is a cyclical process that is repeated throughout the professional life of the engineer. CPD is undertaken and managed by the individual engineer. The result has value for the individual engineer as well as the profession.

The objectives of CPD for the engineering profession include:

  • the advancement of the body of knowledge and technology within the engineering profession;
  • increased public confidence in individual engineers, the engineering profession and engineering regulation as a whole, with improved understanding about what is involved in maintaining an engineering license;
  • improved protection of life, property, economy, environment and sustainability, particularly in areas of high risk, or specialized areas of practice which may be difficult to monitor on a case by case basis;
  • improved regulation and guidance in emerging areas of practice;
  • improved mechanisms for assessing the qualifications for admitting and re-admitting members;
  • enhanced understanding of what it means to be a professional for the individual engineer, government regulators, industry and the general public; and
  • improved mobility for engineers within Canada.

For the individual engineer, regular investment in CPD maximizes potential for lifetime employability. By taking ownership of their career and focusing on professional development, an engineer will:

  • be better able to recognize opportunity;
  • be more aware of the trends and directions in engineering and society;
  • become increasingly effective in the workplace;
  • be able to help, influence and lead others by example;
  • be confident in future employability; and
  • have a fulfilling and rewarding career.

A CPD program may be voluntary or mandatory. In some cases, provincial or territorial legislation or regulations may require a mandatory program. In either case, every regulator should have a program that encourages individual engineers to seek CPD as a primary means to retain and expand their area of practice.

CPD contributes to the continued competence of engineers through the acquisition of new knowledge, skills and experience. This may be recognized by the regulators through a formal reporting program whereby the engineer reports annually on their CPD regardless of whether their program is voluntary or mandatory.

A CPD program may be implemented progressively in steps through three levels as explained below. Alternatively, one of the higher levels may be implemented from the beginning. Regulators should consult with their registered engineers to determine the appropriate level when a program is begun. The three levels recommended for CPD Programs are:

Level 1 – CPD Information Service Program

Providing information on, and linkages to, CPD opportunities through their central website, advertising formal courses, workshops and seminars offered by CPD providers which may include universities, colleges, learned and technical societies and/or the regulator themselves. This level of service should be the minimum offered by regulators.

Level 2 - Voluntary CPD Reporting and Recording Program

The Level 1 program is provided and, in addition, the regulator operates a voluntary CPD reporting and recording program. The individual engineer annually records his/her professional development activities on forms provided by the regulator. Another feature of this program is that the number of categories of “recognized” CPD is expanded beyond formal training courses to include such items as on-the-job experience, informal training and so forth.

The voluntary program includes guidance to individual engineers to prepare and document a structured, individual CPD Plan.

Level 3 – Mandatory CPD Reporting and Recording Program

Level 1 is provided and, in addition, the regulator operates a CPD reporting and recording program similar to Level 2 except that reporting is mandatory for all practising engineers. Failure to submit an annual report or produce upon request requires the regulator to follow-up to ensure compliance, which may include some form of sanction for continuing non-compliance. This level requires the development of additional enforcement policies, including specified levels of CPD to be acquired over a defined period. It requires more volunteer, staff and financial resources to administer than the lower levels.

Further details on the three levels are provided in the following sections.

In selecting and operating the appropriate level, regulators are advised to strike a balance between cost, effectiveness, flexibility, and acceptability from the perspective of the engineer, the public, the client, the regulator, and government. These levels are designed to allow a regulator to advance in measured steps towards a progressive and expanded CPD Program.

Each regulator should periodically review its level to determine that it is still appropriate, in meeting the needs of the regulator and its registered engineers and can be effectively administered within the limits of their human and financial resources.

The design of a CPD Program should emphasize the direct link between a member’s practice and their professional development activities. The degree to which an individual engineer’s competence is enhanced is a function of the degree to which an engineer’s professional development activities supports or enhances his/her practice. An enabling mechanism to realize this linkage is for the engineer to prepare the structured CPD Plan.

5.1 CPD program elements

A voluntary (Level 2) CPD Program aimed at encouraging the individual engineer to seek opportunities to maintain and expand their knowledge, skills and experience would normally include:

  • Information and publicity on courses, workshops, seminars etc. that provide technical or non-technical skills and knowledge. This information should be continually updated and accessible on the regulator website;
  • Direct provision of a limited selection of CPD opportunities and/or engaging outside institutions to provide CPD for their engineers;
  • Guidance and advice on the development and execution of an individual CPD plan; and
  • Practice guidelines that document selected areas of practice as well as the legal and administrative aspects of engineering practice.

The elements of a mandatory (Level 3) CPD Program would normally include all the elements of a Level 2 program plus:

  • Requiring a minimum number of hours of CPD activity, either annually or averaged over a longer period or other means to judge the quality of the program;
  • Requiring an individual engineer to document his/her CPD using standard forms, or within reporting guidelines either of which are provided by the regulator;
  • Requiring the individual engineer to either submit these reports or retain them for inspection, upon request, by the regulator; and
  • Review of a certain percentage of the reports annually through a CPD Review process;
  • A mechanism or process for regulators to selectively review and validate these reports.

If an regulator program is mandatory, there should be provision for exemptions that allow engineers to declare themselves as non-practicing or for medical or personal reasons.

Regulators should develop policies and procedures for the re-instatement of engineers who resume practice after a period of non-practice as well as those engineers seeking reinstatement after their license has expired. Factors to consider in re-instatement include:

  • Length of time since the non-practising engineer was practising, but still maintains their license. If the period is more than two years, regulators should consider some form of re-qualification process to demonstrate competence.
  • If the person is applying for re-instatement after his/her license has expired after more than two years, the admissions policy on reinstatement should apply. See Guideline on Admission to the Practice of Engineering in Canada – Interpretive Statement on Re-Instatement of Former Professional Engineers.

Further details are provided in the Interpretive Statement to this guideline entitled “Guidance on Moving from Non-Practising to Practising Status”. This statement includes a description of the situations where licensed engineers may declare themselves non-practising.

5.2 Categories of CPD

There is no single method for maintaining or enhancing the currency of one's knowledge in a specific area of practice. The required technical skills are unique to the engineers’ practice, and can only be adequately determined by the individual. Regulators/ can provide guidance and tools for the individual to evaluate and plan the technical knowledge and skills component of their CPD.

Regulators and individual engineers are encouraged to recognize all, or a weighted subset, of the appropriate continuing professional development activities including:

Professional practice: Technical work in one’s area of practice is known to be a significant factor contributing to competency. Opportunities are pursued “on the job” to close gaps that have been identified by the individual engineer.

Formal education: Structured courses or programs that may be for credit and may have an evaluation process. These may include seminars, courses, workshops, and university or college courses taught in traditional classroom settings, or remotely using techniques such as correspondence, videos or interactive electronic exchange. Examples include undergraduate or graduate courses offered by universities, colleges or technical institutes; industry-sponsored courses, programs and seminars; employer-sponsored training programs and structured on-the-job training, and short courses provided by a technical learned society.

Informal education: Activities that are not normally offered by an educational institution or other formalized organization, but expand knowledge, skills or judgement. These include self-directed study (e.g. reading technical journals, books or manuals), attendance at conferences workshops and industry trade shows, attendance at technical, professional or managerial meetings and structured discussion of technical or professional issues with peers.

Public, Community and Professional Service: Active participation in professional, technical or managerial regulators or societies, enabling interaction with peers and exposure to new ideas and technologies.

The overall purpose of service activity for the engineer is to understand and appreciate the importance of volunteer work as a member of the profession. Participation-related CPD should allow for:

  • An appreciation of the importance of volunteer service to, and on behalf of, the engineering profession and contribution to the engineering profession;
  • The development of interpersonal and other personal skills, such as organizational, teamwork, and delegation skills;
  • An improved awareness of contributions of engineers to society as well as contributions to society.

Appendix B provides a list of possible activities that could qualify under this category.

Contributions to Knowledge: Preparation, publication and/or presentation of papers, journals, codes, standards or patents that expand or develop the technical knowledge base in the discipline.

Each regulator may choose to weight these elements to suit its local needs. There should be flexibility for individual engineers to tailor their CPD to provide them with the greatest benefit in their own professional practice. However, care must be taken to ensure that all aspects receive some weight and that undue concentration is not given to any one area.

Regulators should assist their members by developing and maintaining a database of acceptable professional development activities that is accessible on their website through Internet.

Non-technical skills have become increasingly more valuable to industry due to, among other things, the widespread adoption of new organizational models. They are becoming critical considerations in recruitment and career advancement decisions. The key non-technical skills that have taken on increased importance are the skills required to ensure the effectiveness of a team.

Key elements to consider in planning CPD for this area include, but are not restricted to:

  • Communication;
  • Interpersonal skills;
  • Project management;
  • Problem solving;
  • Management; and
  • Business.

These skills can be acquired through a combination of experience and formal training. While many non-technical skills will be generic to most work environments, some of the skills may be valued differently by the employer and may have a different focus depending on such characteristics as industry, work structure, and discipline of engineering. The development of non-technical skills should follow the recommendations found in the appropriate regulator’s program on CPD or continuing competence. Appendix C includes a few examples of the types of skills that could be acquired.

5.3 Components of acceptable CPD

The following criteria may be used by engineers to judge the merit of any proposed continuing education or professional development activity. Acceptable continuing education and professional development should embody at least some aspects of the following:

  • Application or development of technical theory;
  • Practical experience;
  • Management of engineering practice;
  • Communication, business and interpersonal skills (the non-technical skills); and
  • Social implications of engineering.

These criteria are adapted from the CCPE/CEQB Guideline on Admission to the Practice of Engineering in Canada. The guideline includes numerous examples to illustrate each of the criteria.

5.4 Self-assessment tools

To maintain and develop his/her professional competence, individual engineers should be encouraged to:

  1. Recognize the importance of CPD and take ownership of their professional and personal development.
  2. Establish a CPD Plan that takes into account their current knowledge, skills ands professional experience, their personal career intentions, both short-term and long-term, the continuing changes in industry, technology, society and the profession as well as the employer’s business objectives and opportunities.
  3. Actively work towards fulfilling the CPD Plan and report on activities and progress in accordance with forms to be provided by regulators whether CPD is mandatory or voluntary.

Having a CPD Plan is a good practice, regardless of whether the regulator has a voluntary or mandatory program for CPD. Suggestions for the individual engineer to develop his/her CPD Plan are included in an interpretive statement to this guideline entitled ”Guidance on the Preparation of an Individual CPD Plan”. This statement provides guidance on the steps and thinking needed to develop a CPD Plan, what information to include and suggested forms to prepare the plan.

Regulators should provide their engineers with forms and guidelines that help an individual assess their competence as well as develop a CPD plan. These forms may be adapted or further modified by individual regulators/ordre to enable reporting of CPD.

5.5 CPD reporting

Reporting continued professional development activities to the regulator is an integral element of CPD Programs at a more advanced level. At the same time, the process should not be any more burdensome than necessary. The reporting process may include some or all of the following features:

  • Periodic reporting of valid continued engineering education or professional development activity to the regulator. This reporting may be independent of, or part of, the practice review process referred to in section 6.3;
  • Alternatively, the report is retained by the individual engineer, and must be available for inspection by the regulator at any time upon request;
  • The report may be in the form of a log book in a format to be specified by the individual regulator;
  • Individual records, subject to CPD Review, of professional development activity.

Regulators that have or will institute CPD reporting requirements, either voluntary or mandatory, should provide centralized electronic forms on their websites that enable online reporting via Internet.

5.6 CPD review

The purpose of the CPD Review is to help ensure the engineer has a meaningful CPD program in place, and that the program meets the intent of the regulator program. The CPD Review could be undertaken of all submissions in a given period, or a rational sampling of submissions based on the entire membership or by the level of risk presented by an area of practice.

For a mandatory CPD Program, regulators should review the CPD reports submitted by engineers to ensure compliance where such reporting is mandatory. This process is referred to as CPD Review and is distinct and separate to the Practice Review explained in Section 6.

The criteria for selecting engineers to review should be based on public safety, and such risk factors as:

  • Area of practice;
  • Records of activity to upgrade knowledge in the event of significant changes in the focus or nature of professional activity.

The outcomes of the CPD Review should be communicated to the engineer and include one of the following:

  • A satisfactory comment where the ongoing training/development is satisfactory;
  • Assistance to develop an appropriate upgrading program if the ongoing training/development is not satisfactory, with a reasonable amount of time given for that improvement; or,
  • A referral for further action, including the possibility of disciplinary action, for those engineers who refuse to submit information, or if a follow-up review is also unsatisfactory; and
  • Other measures deemed appropriate by the individual regulator.

All submitted reports should be held in confidence. If a report contains proprietary information, further arrangements to ensure confidentiality should be available upon request.

5.7 Sanctions

Regulators operating mandatory CPD Programs will need to consider some form of sanction(s) for non-compliance. Such a program will not be meaningful without some form of consequence, or sanction. These are the responsibility of the individual regulator, but should be reasonable and consistent with the severity and consequences of non-compliance, particularly as it relates to public safety. Consistency of sanctions between regulators having mandatory programs is strongly encouraged.

Some examples of non-compliance include:

  • Failure to provide the annual CPD report to the regulator without proper justification;
  • Failure to achieve the required level of acceptable CPD or meeting the diversity of CPD requirements;
  • Refusal to comply with CPD requirements;
  • Refusal or inability to provide verification of CPD records upon request e.g. in the event of a random CPD review;
  • The CPD is inappropriate to their area of practice.

Sanctions may include, but not be limited to, one or more of the following: a written reprimand, requirement for additional CPD within a specified period of time, formal practice review, re-qualification, potential discipline action, suspension or removal of license. Regulators should provide sufficient written notice (at least 30 days) for an individual to comply before the sanction is imposed. Additional sanctions may be imposed if deficiencies are discovered in a practice review arising from a CPD review.

Legislative amendments to remove uncooperative members outside of the disciplinary process should help streamline administration of sanctions for non-compliance. Regulators instituting or operating mandatory CPD reporting programs should examine the necessity of legislative changes or amendments to regulations to authorize or mandate such programs.

For voluntary CPD Programs, it is recommended that jurisdictions periodically remind their licensed members that maintaining and enhancing his/her competence is an obligation under the Code of Ethics, and that it is in their best interest to develop and pursue a personal professional development plan. Guidance and encouragement to engineers to develop and implement their own individual CPD Plan will enhance career opportunities and foster continuing competence.

6 Continuing competence programs

While regulators are expected to help ensure that engineers within their purview are appropriately qualified, each engineer must continually assess their own competence and take the necessary actions to maintain or upgrade their abilities in line with their work.

The maintenance of continued competency is and should always be the responsibility of the individual engineer. An individual’s program for maintaining competency is expected to vary significantly and should be directed by the needs appropriate to the nature of the practice of the individual engineer. Some flexibility should be allowed for an individual engineer to define his/her particular scope of practice. A narrowly defined or restrictive scope may hamper the pursuit of an effective CPD program.

Engineers are required to address two aspects to maintain continued competency as follows:

  • Acquisition of knowledge and skills as well as behaviour and the attitudes based on personal ethics and framed by the regulation of the profession;

Competency in terms of acquisition of knowledge and skills is achieved through participation in a mandatory CPD Program.

  • Competency in Practice

Competency in practice requires engineers to use processes and procedures that are consistent with the requirements of the respective engineering act and respect their duty to fulfill their obligations to their clients and the public. Competency in practice is normally assessed through practice reviews.

A Continuing Competence Program operated by the regulators to assist the engineer to achieve continued competency should include the following:

  • Mandatory CPD Program;
  • Annual Declaration of Compliance;
  • Policies and procedures to assess competency in practice; and
  • Practice Standards and Guidelines.

Continuing Competence Programs may evolve as an extension to the mandatory CPD Program. The existing CPD Program should be continued as a part of any new Continuing Competence Program.

It is necessary that mechanisms exist to monitor the competency of registered engineers on a proactive basis to the extent defined in engineering Acts and Codes of Ethics. An annual Declaration of Compliance duly signed by the registered engineer at annual license renewal is suggested as an efficient and effective mechanism.

Processes and procedures for periodic assessment of competency in practice are required by the regulators to be consistent with the requirements of their respective engineering Act and the duty to protect the public. This would normally be achieved through Practice Reviews.

Another element of a Continuing Competence Program to encourage consistent, quality practice is Practice Standards and Guidelines. These enunciate best practices and list the factors for engineers to consider in a specific area of engineering practice. Some Practice Standards and Guidelines are also needed to cover the legal, regulatory and administrative aspects of engineering practice.

6.1 Declaration of compliance

Regulators should institute a policy asking practising members to make a declaration of compliance concerning their continuing competency. It is recommended that this declaration occur at the time of the payment of the annual dues for the renewal of registration. This declaration could be drafted by each regulator with legal advice, and should include the following principles:

  • That the engineer has acquired the knowledge, skills and level of awareness to continue to provide the scope of services he/she currently provides or intends to provide in the coming year;
  • That the engineer will fulfil their professional responsibilities to the public; and
  • That such a declaration is based on the knowledge and awareness of the engineer of their ability to perform the stated professional engineering services i.e.” to the best of my knowledge”.

Any failure to so declare should be recorded in the member’s file and may be subject to some form of sanction as determined by the individual regulator.

It is recommended that all regulators modify their license renewal form to include this declaration. Engineers who are registered in more than one jurisdiction should be required to sign a Declaration in each of the provinces or territories to ensure they are meeting the standards of each regulator in which they are registered.

The Declaration of Compliance may be a component of a Continuing Competence Program. It may also be implemented as a separate mechanism for those regulators that do not operate formal Continuing Competence programs.

6.2 Practice reviews

Examination of the processes and procedures that are used in the performance of engineering services requires a hands-on examination of a engineer's practice. Practice reviews are normally the mechanism to periodically assess the competency of an individual engineer. However, such reviews can be difficult, time-consuming and costly, beyond the limited resources of smaller regulators. Alternative methods, including improvements for engineers to self-assess and report their competency, that achieve a similar result will be explored in the future and issued as one or more Interpretive Statement(s) to this guideline as they are developed and tested.

A Practice Review Program is intended to be an educational and professional development process for the benefit of the licensed engineer as well as a proactive quality assurance check on member’s practices. The evaluation criteria used to asses the practice of a licensed engineer are intended to be the minimum standards of practice to which all members must meet in order to fulfill their professional obligations, especially in their primary duty to protect the public and the environment.

Practice Reviews may be undertaken for several reasons:

  • Random selection through an annual or routine process;
  • To review practices in a specific sector that is deemed a higher risk to the public or needs increased scrutiny;
  • Review of an Individual referred from the discipline process or the CPD Review;
  • Upon request from a member who wishes to have their existing practice examined;
  • When the Council of a regulator has reason to believe that the engineering practice of an individual is questionable.

The sample size from the random selection of engineers for Practice Review should be large enough to be representative of the regulator membership. Engineers who have had a Practice Review in the past year should be excluded from the random selection list for a period of not less than three but not more than five years.

Criteria should be set up for the number of registered engineers within a firm, which have undergone a Practice Review. This will ensure that resources are effectively utilized by preventing the carrying out of multiple Practice Reviews of engineers in one firm when the engineers in another firm have not received any.

A regulator may elect to conduct Practice Reviews within a specific discipline or area of practice where protection of the public is judged to be paramount. Each regulator should determine the risk assessment for such disciplines or activities. Engineers practising in higher risk areas would have a greater chance of undergoing a Practice Review under this form of selection.

All engineers who undergo a Practice Review should be notified in writing, and given sufficient time to assemble whatever written information is necessary to conduct the review. The regulator should specify the type of information required and the format for submitting the information.

Policies covering exemptions from Practice Reviews should be specified as part of a Continuing Competence Program. Possible exemptions include maternity/parental leave, declared non-practicing status and special exceptions for cases that warrant special consideration as determined by the regulator.

Engineers, experienced in the appropriate area of practice, should be selected as reviewers by the regulator. The engineer undergoing the Practice Review should have the right to refuse a specific reviewer on reasonable grounds, including conflict of interest. The reviewer should be a competent witness and capable of disclosing to appropriate bodies within the regulator the problems found during the Practice Review, if any.

Individual engineers may request a Practice Review, and regulators should make best efforts to accommodate. Such reviews should be in accordance with regular procedures employed in Practice Reviews, and may include a requirement for the engineer to pay the cost of the review.

6.2.1 Elements of a practice review

The Practice Review should examine the following:

  • The fundamental elements of process by which the engineer’s work is produced;
  • The application of knowledge in the discipline or field of practice of the engineer; and,
  • The end product of the engineer’s work.

The following are criteria that may be considered in a Practice Review:

  • scope of practice;
  • technical capability;
  • access to resources;
  • records;
  • quality assurance procedures;
  • means by which competence is maintained;
  • proper use of engineering seals.

Practice Reviews may be general and/or technical. The general review examines the practice of the engineer, while a technical audit tests the specific elements of design. Regulators may choose to apply general and technical reviews singly or in combination. Engineers who do not conduct or review technical designs in their practice should undergo a general review.

All reviewers who conduct Practice Reviews should conduct their reviews in accordance with written guidelines that explain policies and procedures and provide the necessary forms to record the results of the review. Forms will also be needed for the engineer to document his/her practice in advance of the review.

The Practice Review may entail all or some of the following elements: a review of written documentation, a site visit, an interview either on-site or at the regulator office which ever is most convenient and cost-effective; and, a structured report by the reviewer that includes a recommendation.

The results of a Practice Review could be as follows:

  • The engineer is judged to be in compliance and the review is finalized. Suggestions for practice improvement(s) may be made;
  • The engineer is judged to require modification or improvement in specified areas. A follow-up review is required to confirm that corrective measures have been implemented; or,
  • The review finds serious violations of the Act, By-Laws or Code of Ethics, non-adherence to building codes or other relevant mandates. The engineer’s file is then dealt with through the regulator discipline process.

Where immediate harm could result from a problem found during a Practice Review, the reviewer should have the power to immediately refer the case to the regulator investigation or discipline committee as applicable.

The results of the Practice Review must be given to the engineer who was reviewed. The engineer should be permitted the opportunity to review and comment on the report before it is finally submitted to the regulator. It must also be treated as confidential and not be released without that engineer’s permission except when disciplinary actions are to be taken, or public safety is at risk.

While this discussion assumes that individual engineers are subject to Practice Reviews, individual regulators may also choose to conduct reviews of firms in accordance with the provisions of their Act, By-laws and Regulations.

6.3 Practice standards and guidelines

Regulators should provide Practice Standards and Guidelines as a resource for their registered engineers to develop and improve their practice. Formal definitions of these two types of documents are provided in Appendix A.

Practice Standards are formal documents developed and maintained by regulators to cover legislated activities as well as to assist in the judgement of the practice of an engineer in a Practice Review or formal discipline process. Standards usually focus on a narrower area of practice within an engineering discipline, and may extend to specific engineering works. Practice standards are measurable and enforceable.

Practice guidelines provide advice in particular practice areas and often speak to the role and responsibilities of engineers within the context of competent professional practice and meeting regulatory requirements.

Individual regulators are encouraged to develop practice guidelines and standards to meet their local needs, and share them with the other regulators for information. Thus an regulator wishing to update or develop practice standards or practice guidelines can readily consult on what has been done by other regulators

Practice standards and guidelines are a useful element of Continuing Competence Programs. They assist individual engineers to maintain their competence and provide responsible, competent engineering services that protect the public interest.

6.4 Sanctions

Regulators operating continuing competence programs will need to consider some form of sanction(s) for failure to meet competency standards or breaches of Codes of Ethics or Codes of Professional Conduct. These matters are normally handled through the discipline process and therefore sanctions are derived from the results of that process.

Refusal to undergo a Practice Review should be defined in the various Acts or by-laws as unprofessional conduct and engineers who refuse a Practice Review should be subject to disciplinary action.

6.5 Implementation of continuing competence programs

Regulators that have implemented or are considering implementing continuing competence programs should take pro-active steps in order to reduce the risk of liability associated with these programs. The steps that could be taken include:

  1. Carefully planning, implementing and monitoring continuing competence programs. Regulators should be prepared to devote the necessary resources to ensure that the programs are properly administered.
  2. If possible, the continuing competence program should be authorized or mandated by statute. Establishing and administering a program in accordance with the legislation provides an additional argument that immunity should be afforded these actions since the regulator was acting in accordance with legislative requirements. Many statutory immunity clauses apply to actions “under the Act”. If the continuing competence programs are not either mandated or expressly authorized by the Act, then there is an argument that the statutory immunity provision in these circumstances would be inapplicable.
  3. Regulators should examine clauses in their own legislation with respect to the exclusion of liability to determine if they are sufficiently broad. Where possible, the necessary legislative amendments to broaden the clauses should be pursued.
  4. Regulators should examine their liability insurance policies to ensure that they would be covered for claims arising from the alleged negligent administration of continuing competence programs.
  5. Regulators should be careful not to make unwarranted representations to the public about the efficacy of their continuing competence programs. The public can be advised of the existence of the continuing competence program, but the regulator should be careful that they do not make any statements to the public from which a guarantee of performance would be inferred.

7 Inter-jurisdiction mobility

The mobility of Canadian engineers and expansion of their practice into more than one jurisdiction is a growing trend that has been facilitated by the Inter-Regulator Mobility Agreement. The consistency of the detailed implementation policies, practices and exceptions of continuing professional development and continuing competency programs among the regulators affects mobility and protection of the public. The following principles should be observed by regulators for engineers transferring their practice to another jurisdiction or who are obtaining additional licenses in one or more host jurisdictions:

  • Engineers should be required by the host jurisdiction to comply with the regulator program following admission, if the program is mandatory. It is recommended that the host regulator require the applicant to sign a declaration to comply as a condition of granting licensure under mobility provisions in effect at the time of application.
  • Host jurisdictions should not require compliance with their mandatory program as a condition of admission.
  • Engineers applying to a host jurisdiction should be expected to provide proof that they are meeting the continued competency requirements of the home jurisdiction (s) in which they practice.
  • Each jurisdiction should accept “as equivalent” practice reviews performed by other jurisdictions.

CCPE (through CEQB) should help regulators with their continuing professional development and continuing competency programs by fostering a uniform approach through promotion of this guideline and periodic reporting of the details of voluntary and mandatory programs from all twelve regulators.

Appendix A – Definitions and acronyms

Certification: The attestation that the holder of a certificate is a specialist with a set of defined skills, knowledge and abilities demonstrated through an assessment and/or evaluation process designed for that purpose. The certification may or may not include a title that certificate holders are permitted to use to identify themselves to the public as a holder of such certification. For the engineering profession, certification would be in addition to the registration/licensing as a professional engineer.

Competence (also known as Competency): Effective performance of a service in a skilled, knowledgeable and ethical manner consistent with the individual’s position and responsibility.

Continuing Competency: Training or engineering practice required for an engineer to maintain currency of skills, knowledge and ability to practice engineering.

Continuing Education (CE): Structured courses or programs that may be for credit and may have an evaluation process. These may include seminars, courses, workshops and university or college courses taught in traditional classroom settings or remotely using techniques such as correspondence, videos or interactive electronic exchange. CE applies to the formal education component of Continuing Professional Development.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD): Training or engineering practice, which enhances the engineer’s skills, knowledge and ability to practice engineering. These activities typically include the application of theory, management of engineering, communication or understanding the social implications of engineering. May also be called Continuing Professional Excellence. Continuing Professional Development is one method used to maintain the minimum level of competence required.

Continuing Professional Excellence: Alternative name for a regulator program that helps ensure the proficiency and competency of engineers and geoscientists through keeping themselves informed to maintain their competence as well as strive to advance the body of knowledge in which the engineer/geoscientist practices.

CPD Plan: A formal or informal document developed by an individual engineer that documents their professional development objectives and goals, and may include new knowledge and skill requirements and a plan to acquire them.

CPD Program: A program administered by an individual regulator that encompasses the planned acquisition of knowledge, experience and skills and personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout an engineer’s professional life.

CPD Review: A component of the CPD program that reviews CPD reports submitted by individual engineers to confirm their participation in a meaningful program that meets the intent of the regulator program.

EIT: Engineer-in-Training

Home Jurisdiction: The regulator (s) where the member is currently licensed.

Host Jurisdiction: The regulator where the member is seeking licensure.

Non-Practising Engineer: An engineer who retains membership in a regulator and their professional designation, but is either occupied in a non-related occupation, sick or disabled (long-term), or retired or an honorary member, and has declared and been recognized not to be engaged in, or influence, the practice of engineering as defined by the engineering act and associated by-laws and regulations.

Practising Engineer: An engineer who is licensed to practise engineering and is actively practising, and uses their engineering seal in accordance with the engineering act and associated by-laws and regulations.

Practice Guidelines: Formal documents published by regulators that provide advice related to the role and responsibilities of engineers in a broad or narrow area of engineering practice, and help enable an engineer to fulfill their professional obligations, especially in regard to the primary duty to protect the public. The overall purpose of guidelines must never be compromised, but variations in their application in accordance with good professional judgment are normally permitted. They are not used as legal documents or to alter contracts between engineers and their clients.

Practice Review: A formalized, general or technical review of the practice of an individual engineer licensed by the regulator examining the elements of the process by which the engineer’s work is produced, the application of knowledge in their area of practice and the end products of the engineer’s work.

Practice Standards: Formal documents published by regulators that define measurable and enforceable benchmarks of professional conduct in a narrowly defined area of engineering practice. They may be referred to in legislation, by-laws and/or regulations.

Qualified: Possession of the required academic training, language skills, experience, ethics and good character necessary for admission and continued registration as a professional engineer.

Self-Regulating Profession: a Provincial or Territorial Act that creates the self-regulatory authority governs Engineering. The Act gives the regulatory body the power to ensure that only those persons who meet the pre-determined education and entrance requirements it sets, and who continue to observe the provisions of the Act, By-Laws and Code of Ethics, are entitled to practice professional engineering and use the title “P. Eng/Ing.”

Specialization: The practice in a particular narrow area of engineering.

For those regulators prepared to recognize participation-related CPD, the following approaches may be taken to provide/obtain this type of CPD:

  • Offer courses in Personal Development (i.e. additional knowledge not directly related to employment but useful for rounding out person’s skill set)
  • Offer networking opportunities for EITs (e.g. belong to an Regulator chapter, interface with students at university, develop EIT-specific groups to discuss technical items, non-technical items or just socialize)
  • Participate in outreach activities in Universities/schools
  • Participate in outreach activities in the Regulator
  • Participate in outreach activities in Community

Participation could be divided into:

  • Professional Service
  • Community Service

The following are examples of activities in these areas:

Professional service activities

  • Participate in organizing or making a presentation at a Regulator general or chapter meeting or seminar;
  • Serve on a Regulator committee;
  • Assist in organizing a technical society function (seminar, meeting, etc.);
  • Serve on a technical society committee;
  • Serve on a Board or Committee in an engineering capacity;
  • Provide job shadowing for a student;
  • Mentor a student on a volunteer basis, outside the workplace;
  • Participate as a judge at a science fair;
  • Prepare and deliver a presentation on engineering as a career to an elementary, junior or senior high school class, or to a youth organization;
  • Participate in career days or a careers symposium by staffing a booth and/or preparing and setting up a display on engineering;
  • Participate as a Production Advisor to a Junior Achievement Company;
  • Sponsor an engineering student at the annual engineering dinner.

Community service activities

  • Hold a board position and actively participate in the operation of a community club, cultural group, or religious organization;
  • Coach or manage a team or organize a cultural event;
  • Participate in a community volunteer organization;
  • Assist in the organization and production (sound, lights, stage etc) of a community event such as a play or concert;
  • Organize and co-ordinate a charity event.

Technical skills

Some technical training areas would have a broader appeal and would cover topics that are not specific to an individual technology or industry. They might include:

  • Dangerous/hazardous materials management;
  • Environmental regulations;
  • Codes and standards;
  • Regulatory compliance.

Other technical training areas would be related either to a specific industry that might cover several technologies or to a specific technology that could be used in one or more industries.

Non-technical skills


  1. Written Communication
  2. Oral Communication

Interpersonal skills

  1. Cultural Sensitivity and business practice differences and their impacts
  2. Conflict Management
  3. Negotiation
  4. Working with subordinates and other professionals
  5. Delegation
  6. Decision-making

Project management

  1. Project Manager’s Role
  2. Document Relationships / Approval
  3. Scheduling Processes
  4. Estimating Methodologies
  5. Budgeting Practices
  6. Risk Management Quality
  7. Quality assurance and control methods
  8. Procurement
  9. Team Structures/Practices
  10. Contract Administration

Problem solving

  1. Problem Definition
  2. Root Cause Analysis
  3. Factors
  4. Criteria
  5. Evaluation of possible solutions
  6. Selection of preferred solution


  1. Recruiting
  2. Training
  3. Performance Evaluation
  4. Coaching
  5. Motivation
  6. Time Management
  7. Meetings
  8. Workplace Legislation
  9. Harassment Issues
  10. Human Rights
  11. Change Management

Lifelong learning

  1. Self-Assessment
  2. Career Planning
  3. Self-Development
  4. Second Language


  1. Business Case
  2. E-business concepts
  3. Contract negotiation
  4. Financial accounting
  5. Risk analysis
  6. Corporate Culture
  7. Law