Letters to the Editor

June 2004 » Letters
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Authorization certificate
Each month I look forward to Alfred Pagan, P.E., L.S.’s article in CE News, particularly those that involve his perception of how the practice of engineering has changed over the last few decades. I am a licensed engineer in New Jersey and also receive from the state board the newsletter he discussed in his April column. I also was surprised when I read about the magnitude of the fine for not determining and documenting the client’s identity.

However, it also surprised me when [Pagan] stated [he] did not know about a Certificate of Authorization. A Certificate of Authorization must be obtained by a company that offers engineering and/or surveying services to the public, and is on the same bi-annual cycle as licenses. At least one individual in the company receiving the Certificate of Authorization must be licensed, usually an officer or owner of the company. Individual practicing engineers or surveyors do not need a Certificate of Authorization if they are licensed.
— David R. Thornton, Rockaway, N.J.

New York’s Erie Canal
I read with both interest and amusement the "In Civil History" article called, "New York’s Erie Canal," in the April 2004 issue. It interested me because of the technical challenges the project encompassed. I found it amusing because of the improbability of the project’s chief engineer completing such a project today. Benjamin Wright wouldn’t have a chance, simply because we have come so far as a profession.

Wright, a "land surveyor," reportedly with little formal education, was dabbling in the engineering arena—unspeakable! How can we countenance someone with no master’s degree, no professional engineering license, no annual continuing education requirement, and likely, no professional liability insurance? I’d wager he didn’t even seek permits.

Yes, we have come far as a profession. One wonders just how many Wrights are out there right now who have the ability to make a noteworthy contribution, but will never get the chance.
— Carroll J. Oliva, P.E., R.A., Randolph, N.J.

The need for marketing
I read with interest the comments of Cathy Bazán-Arias, Ph.D., E.I.T., in the March 8, Vol. 1, No. 22 issue of Civil Connection regarding the lack of public awareness about engineers. ... As a marketing professional, I see several reasons for these perceptions. But the biggest cause is this: Engineers get neither exposure nor accolades because engineers want it that way. Harsh? Yes, but not less true because of it.

At a recent reception for state legislators and engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies did a fine job in getting engineers to attend the function. However, the engineers stood around and talked to each other instead of attempting to meet the attending lawmakers, whose policies and spending authorities are so important to our collective firms’ livelihoods.

When our firm and other firms create statements of qualifications, we devise them for a specific, limited audience of a known selection panel. We don’t care about the public until there is an obligatory public involvement meeting. Therefore, what passes for marketing with A/E firms are brochures filled with images of things—such as bridges, buildings, and highways—in which we had a hand.

When local bonding issues come to a vote, when there is debate on transit tax dollars, or during the recent struggle for federal highway [funds], where were the letters to the editors from engineers? Where was the engineering community on talk radio or at the public library providing information? Where are engineers at community meetings and career days with a good message of how great it is to be an engineer?

There are many ways that the public, the government, and potential engineering candidates can learn about architecture and engineering, but typically none of them are done with sufficient conviction, verve, arresting approach, or passion to be convincing. A company like DeBeers need only show you a picture of a diamond and you know what they do. But is there a single structure, highway, bridge, or even grain silo that can purport to represent all that civil engineers are? There isn’t, but there ought to be a lot more ideas out there in print or on the Internet (God forbid someone would have enough money for radio or TV) to tell people about engineers and engineering.

If it is important—and I think it is—to not only design to build but also to design the vision as well, then engineers and their firms have to exploit marketing techniques to share and sell who we are and how we make a difference.
— Pauletta Lowe, via e-mail

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