NSPE Has a Higher Purpose

A number of years ago, NSPE reinvented itself, as most organizations do periodically, and adopted a new set ofmission, vision, and goal statements. At that time, based on the specific verbiage of NSPE’s goals, my thought was that NSPE had “turned inward,” focusing on cooperation with state societies and service to individual PEs. NSPE’s historic public health, safety, and welfare advocacy role on behalf of the engineering profession and within American society seemed to me to be absent from NSPE’s goals. It’s present in the vision statement (“licensure advocacy”), and it’s the first of the listed “values” of NSPE (“protection of the public welfare above all other considerations”), but it isn’t present in the goals of NSPE.

NSPE’s goals, specifically, are as follows:
Goals
1. Foster Chapter-State-National partnerships to seamlessly deliver a core level of service to every member.
2. Deliver value to our members that enhances their competence and ability to practice as a Professional Engineer.
3. Increase membership to serve and represent the collective interests of all licensed Professional Engineers and Engineer Interns.

In recent years, the NSPE Licensure and Qualifications for Practice Committee has proposed a number of position statements and policies for NSPE consideration. One of these initiatives involves advocacy for consideration of NSPE policies on phasing out industrial exemptions to licensure requirements adopted by many states largely in the 1930s and 1940s. In the paperwork proposing such position statements or policies, the specific NSPE goal needs to be indicated. Which of the three NSPE goals pertains to the phasing out of industrial exemptions? It doesn’t involve service to members; it doesn’t enhance a PE’s ability to practice, and it certainly isn’t at all about membership. For these and other similar public policy initiatives we pick “Goal 2,” but it really doesn’t fit.
I would contend that NSPE needs a fourth goal concerning advocacy of U.S. public policy pertaining to engineering matters in the interest of enhancing public health, safety, and welfare. After all, that is our core value. And yet it is not one of our goals.

Licensure itself has a higher purpose. We don’t license engineers for any purpose pertaining to the engineers themselves. We license engineers solely for the purpose of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare.

NSPE also has a higher purpose. Yes, we represent the interests of professional engineers. And yes, we accomplish much of what we accomplish through effective national-state partnerships. But we also play an outward-looking role in the engineering profession, which is selfless and in the public interest, not necessarily in the interest of professional engineers. If NSPE doesn’t play that role on behalf of engineers of all disciplines, who does?
I think that most NSPE members would agree that we play that role and serve a higher public purpose. Our goals should reflect that.

Input has been provided on this item by Bernard Berson, P.E.,F.NSPE, and L. Robert Smith, P.E., F.NSPE.

Published June 23, 2011 by Craig Musselman, P.E., F.NSPE

Filed under: Licensing,

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