NICET Chair Aims to Highlight Institute’s Role In Creating Qualified Engineering Teams

September/October 2019

NSPE Today
NICET Chair Aims to Highlight Institute’s Role In Creating Qualified Engineering Teams

Curtis Beck, P.E., F.NSPECurtis Beck, P.E., F.NSPE, got interested in the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies after reading a history of it. Through conversations with NICET leadership, Beck came to understand the importance of credentialed, qualified members of the engineering team beyond the professional engineer. He also felt a desire to help.

Beck is now the 2019–20 chair of NICET, a division of NSPE that certifies engineering technicians and technologists. His goal: to help bring awareness to the broader NSPE membership of NICET’s key role.

Beck has been semiretired, from the Hawaii Electric Company, since 2013. He currently serves as a part-time consultant and construction manager for Bowers and Kubota Consulting of Waipahu, Hawaii. He is also a partner with Mahilani Partners LLC, of Hilo, which owns and manages a farming community and visitor center, and raises tropical products such as cacao and coffee.

Beck is on his second three-year term on the NICET board. He has been an NSPE member since 1981, with various roles at the chapter, state, and national levels.

PE chatted with Beck about his vision for NICET and why it’s important for NSPE members to know about the institute’s work.

PE: Why, as a professional engineer, did you want to participate with an organization focused on technicians and technologists?
NICET has been with NSPE for a long time, almost half a century. Despite that, it’s not well known amongst the membership and even some of the leadership as to exactly why it’s there, why it’s part of NSPE, and what role it should play.

So, I think the very concept of the engineering team—the research engineer, professional engineer or design engineer, and certified technician—is the glue that holds together the safety and welfare of the public. When [you] go out and engineer infrastructure, you have to have the whole thing. It’s been likened to the three legs of a stool. If you lose any of those legs, the stool falls over.

I came to see the importance of it. And seeing also that my colleagues, my fellow PEs, weren’t aware of it, I felt it was important that I be part of that process to inform PEs within NSPE of the role of the engineering technician and how NICET should be a more prominent part of NSPE.

PE: Talk more about your role as board chair and your hopes for your time in the position.
I now represent NICET to the NSPE board. So, it’s my responsibility to convey to NSPE what NICET is doing—its vision, its goals—and then coordinate that with NSPE’s.

I hope to also inform my PE colleagues on the NSPE board a little more about the importance of NICET and why we should be working more closely together.

As chair, what I’d like to accomplish in a year, besides increased awareness of NICET’s role, is to establish a discussion group within the framework of the annual PE Conference, inviting members of the certified engineering technicians association to the conference to participate with the PEs, starting in Philadelphia next August.

PE: Discuss your views on the importance of a qualified engineering team.
Just as the professional engineer has the licensure process to uphold the credibility of the profession, so does the technician have a professional certification process that ensures they will be fully integrated into the engineering team that holds paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.

It all comes down to the first paragraph in the Code of Ethics for Engineers: We hold paramount the safety of the public. So, the engineering team is instrumental to that. Any one of the three [legs of the stool] that is not fulfilling their role puts the public in danger.

Reinforcing that, making sure that we are working together and understand each other’s roles and respect each other, will further that goal. And upholds our goal of keeping the safety of the public our paramount purpose.

NICET Fast Facts

  • NSPE first formed the Institute for Certification of Engineering Technicians in 1961. In 1981 it merged with the Society’s Engineering Technologist Certification Institute to form today’s National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies.
  • More than 150,000 individuals have been certified since its launch, in specialty technical areas such as construction materials testing, transportation construction inspection, electrical power, fire protection, and security systems.
  • Career track certifications feature advancing levels of experience, knowledge, and performance requirements: Level I (entry-level, three to six months of experience) up to Level IV (senior-level, 10 plus years of experience).
  • NICET-certified engineering technicians and technologists subscribe to their own code of ethics, which requires them to safeguard the public safety, health, and well-being; undertake only the assignments for which they are competent; avoid conflicts of interest; and so forth.
  • To ensure continued competence, certification must be maintained through a recertification process that requires continuing professional development.
  • Certified technicians can join their own membership association, the American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians (ASCET), which is not part of NSPE but collaborates with NICET.

Learn more about NICET.