I’m not sure if anyone pays attention to Hong Kong these days, but what was once highly fertile territory for overseas consultants is now stony ground (ENR 1/27 p. 11). It suffers the plague of fee competition.

Several years of cut-throat pricing has created an intimidating work environment. Each month, news breaks of pay-cuts and redundancies. Those new off the boat burn out within 12 months on a 60-hour, 6-day week. Budgets are based on 50% free labor.

Previously, firms preyed on dry U.K.-Australian markets to supply staff. This source of ever cheaper gullible talent is not now available as salaries move in opposite directions. Yet the recruitment strategy remains fundamental to competitive bids, and firms struggle to resource jobs. Fees have halved here over the last five years.

Unbelievably, clients seem oblivious to quality, and are dazzled by low fees and shiny-suited managers selling teams that lack capability. Designs are effectively funded by professional indemnity insurance and the chance that sufficient change orders will make jobs profitable.

But there is worse. There is a long list of projects to be implemented, but they never materialize. It’s a feel-good rolling menu of infrastructure projects. But in a bid to constrain the public purse, they disappear into further study only to be replaced by other promises. Its a startling manipulation of a weak profession and the local economy done for political gain.

Wasted Time
The writer of your article "disciplinary Hearings Draw Crowds" failed to grasp the full implication of this Florida requirement under Continuing Education (ENR 02/17 p. 10). He uses the term "allows" to describe attendance of engineers at board meetings when he should have expressed it in terms of "required," since the law is written in such a way that four of the mandatory continuing education hours relate to the registration law and the other four relate to improving professional competency.

What you have chosen to treat in such a way that it may seem unique and innovative was, in fact, ill conceived and has many long-term implications. With 29,000 registrants, over one-half of which live in the state, the sheer logistics of implementation should have been considered and provided for in the program for board meetings. Those meetings are held approximately four times per year at various locations around the state, none of which were selected or equipped to handle more than a few hundred attendees.

The first few meetings were chaotic. As a result, the board devised a plan to videotape meetings and allow registrants to pay a fee, view the tapes at locations of their choice, take an exam on what they observed, and receive credit. Other than poor planning and inconvenience, the results have been innocuous enough that most of us have moved past it. Long-term implications are of greater concern.

For a young registrant who will be meeting these mandatory continuing education requirements on the law every two years for the rest of his career, the prospect of having to attend board meetings or viewing videotapes for up to sixty or eighty hours seems more like punishment than furthering one’s professional competency. Most of us support efforts to improve our competency, especially in our field of engineering practice, and most of us vary the subject matter toward that end. How much time do we need to review the registration law or view board meetings before we "get it."