Continuing Education Units Are Critical
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The potential for education has limitless possibilities that extend beyond the confines of college and university degrees. Indeed, many technical professions, including that of engineering, require continual accrual of Professional Development Hours (PDH) through Continuing Education Units (CEUs). This is in order to prove Continuing Professional Competency (CPC) and even to sometimes maintain professional licenses. This article discusses the benefits of CEUs, and why they play such an important role in the engineering profession.
What is a CEU?
A CEU equates to ten PDH in an accredited program, specifically designed by qualified practitioners, for licensed technical professionals.
The units were first designed and are now assessed and maintained by organizations such as the International Association of Continuing Education Training (IACET). Many professions, including, engineering, medicine and financial advisers, have specific CEUs, tailor made for their field, which are mandatory to complete. Each profession and state has varying annual requirements of how many CEUs and hours must be completed. The State’s Board of Engineering Laws and Rules details this for engineers.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) oversees universal standards that guide development of the content of CEU training programs. With regard to engineering, colleges, universities, engineering societies, online organizations and professional associates can all be CEU service providers. They do, however, need to be approved by the State Engineering Board.
Why are CEUs necessary?
As mentioned, many technical professions require their members to complete a set number of CEUs per year in order to verify their CPC. Proof of this, by means of the CEU Certificate presented upon completion of the unit, is required by most states for professional license renewal. It is important that a certificate is obtained for each CEU, as without it, there is no proof that the course was undertaken and completed. In the case of engineers, licenses must be renewed before (or as close as possible to) their expiry date and it is illegal to practice without a valid license. Private engineering companies also require their employees to hold valid licenses. Many organizations incentivize full time and long-term employees by offering free CEU programs.
Therefore, once registered, and if wanting to practice, the professional engineer must continually enroll and complete CEUs.
How can CEUs help your career?
Improve knowledge and skills base
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is synonymous with rapid evolution and the creation of new technologies. Engineering has found itself at the cutting edge of many of these innovations, and it is vital for the engineers of today to be aware of, understand and be fully comfortable with such advancements.
Completing a variety of CEUs will facilitate learning of these current trends, best practices, laws, regulations and new technologies. CEUs also provide additional theoretical information not necessarily covered at undergraduate/graduate level. So, irrespective of how many years a professional has been practicing as an engineer, there is always a plethora of new information to discover, assimilate and put into practice.
Stay one step ahead of the competition
In 2016, over 1.5 million engineers were registered in this country, a number which is expected to mushroom to almost 2 million by 2026. Competition within the various engineering fields is therefore intense, providing great impetus for individuals to remain on top of their field of expertise. One such strategy to promote this is through enrolling in, and completing, CEUs. By advancing their skills and knowledge base, engineers are able to better market themselves. Private companies also reap CEU benefits through the assurance that they are hiring engineers who are certified and competent.
Improve networking opportunities
Educational programs (such as CEUs) and related events (such as conferences) are a fantastic avenue for like-minded professionals to meet, exchange information and ideas, and build future business relations. CEUs therefore offer licensed engineers, whether they be part of a large corporation, or self-employed, the potential to network with others invested in their field. The resultant benefits of greater connectivity between professionals, can only have positive, knock-on effects on the profession as a whole.
Gain access to new technologies
The last, but not least, benefit of CEUs is the improved ability to access cutting edge technologies. As discussed earlier, engineers must be at the forefront of new advancements in their field, and this can be facilitated through CEUs. Previously, these had to be conducted at a training center or similar accredited institution, with the aid of printed manuals and learning materials. Today, an engineer can access a huge variety of CEUs online. Online presentations, assessments and e-learning opportunities have standardized the opportunities available to all professionals, and expanded the possibilities and varieties of up-to-date learning exponentially. However, as mentioned, these service providers need to be approved by the State Engineering Board.
CEUs are an integral component of the professional life of an engineer. Not only are they required for license renewal, CEUs are an excellent method by which the professional engineer can maintain relevance and improve knowledge in their field of expertise. The improved access to new technologies, together with improved networking prospects and competitiveness, further demonstrates the vital role that CEUs play.