Eleven years ago, state lawmakers gave employees doing engineering work before March 8, 1992 until 2010 to obtain a license. But VDOT in 1998 identified only four positions that it said should require licenses. "That truly did not represent all the positions where people had responsible charge," says Philip Shucet, who became transportation commissioner last year. He was an engineering executive, but is not an engineer and is not covered by the requirement.

Engineers in the state pressured VDOT to take the matter more seriously and that now seems to be the case. The department has a staff of 10,200 and 1,156 involve engineering. Some of those who need to obtain a license are eligible for retirement before the deadline, says Mal Kerley, VDOT's chief engineer for program development. If a staff member in a designated position cannot obtain a license, VDOT will change their roles or reporting relationships to comply with responsible charge rules.

Among the jobs now covered by the order are district construction engineer, design engineer, bridge engineer and resident engineer. Numerous jobs in VDOT's central office also are covered.

The agency is offering 10% pay raises to staff members who obtain a license. It also is assisting the staff by sponsoring a review course in which nine VDOT staff members now are enrolled. One longtime staff member is an assistant bridge engineer in a district office. He says he is pursuing a license for his own satisfaction and because it will allow him to advance in his field.

"I'm glad to see the commissioner is recognizing the importance of licensure," says Arthur Schwartz, deputy executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers. "It sounds like it is long overdue."

n recent weeks, the Virginia Dept. of Transportation has sent letters to 252 staffers ordering them to obtain engineering licenses by 2010. The order will bring the agency into long-delayed compliance with a Virginia law requiring state employees to hold similar qualifications to those needed in the private sector.