Currently, China mainly implements the system of appointment of posts for engineering and technical personnel. The procedures are primarily as follows: to appraise the academic and technical competence and level of all kinds of engineers and technicians according to different specialities and classify them into the three levels – junior, intermediate and senior, that is, technician and assistant engineer, engineer and senior engineer. Generally, university or college graduate of engineering and technological programs can be appointed as assistant engineers after practicing for one year at their engineering and technological posts. After four years of work, he or she can apply to participate in appraisal by the corresponding engineering and technical expert committee. If the applicant passes appraisal, the employer can appoint him or her as an engineer. After five years, he or she can apply to participate in appraisal by the senior engineer expert committee. If he/she passes appraisal, the corresponding employer can appoint him/her as a senior engineer. As known so far, about five million persons have assumed the engineering and technical posts through appraisal in China, including over 500,000 senior engineers, more than 1.6 million engineers and over 3 million assistant engineers and technicians.
China's engineer system was mainly formed under the planned economy. With the establishment and rapid development of the socialist market economy, it must be further reformed and improved. The core task is to establish an engineer system compatible with both the socialist market economy and international practices. To accelerate the pace of reform and promote the reform in an orderly way, in 2005 the Chinese government departments and relevant organs, including the Ministry of Personnel, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Construction, the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the China Association for Science and Technology, have established the National Coordination Group for Reform of the Engineer System. They organize the overall research on the framework of China's engineer system, put forward the plan for its reform, and take the initiative to promote the international mutual recognition of engineer qualifications.
As a national professional and academic organization, relying on its 64 engineering societies, the China Association for Science & Technology (CAST) has conducted international cooperation extensively and implemented certain pilot programs in conjunction with China's reality since 1990s. Valuable experience has been accumulated and progress has been made. For example, the China Mechanical Engineering Society (CMES) and IET of the UK have carried out the program of "Mutual Recognition of CMES Mechanical Engineers and IET Incorporated Engineers". CMES also reached the intent of cooperation with IMchE of UK, Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and the American Mechanical Engineering Society in mutual recognition of engineers and engineering educational programs. The Chinese Association of Automation signed the letter of intent for "Mutual recognition of Automation System Engineers"with the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, and reached an intent "for acting as an agent of UK operation engineers in China" with the Society of Operations Engineers in UK. The China Instrument and Control Society and the Institute of Measurement and Control of UK signed the"Mutual Recognition on Engineers'Qualification Authentication Agreement"(MREQA)on March 27, 2006 in Beijing. The China Electrotechnology Society signed an agreement of mutual recognition with the IET of UK, Korean Electrical Society and Japanese Electrical Society respectively. The Chinese Society for Electrical Engineering signed the MOU of Mutual Recognition with IET of UK and Hong Kong Institution of Engineers respectively.
In order to coordinate the reform of China's engineer system, the first step is to establish the accreditation system for the engineering programs. The purpose of the accreditation system is to promote China's reform of engineering education, strengthen the engineering practice education, and further improve the quality of engineering education; to set up an accreditation system for engineering program in coordination with the certified or registered engineer system; to further strengthen relations between the engineering education and the industrial circle, and improve the compatibility of engineering talent training with the industries; and to promote China's participation in the international engineering education exchange and reach the international mutual recognition.
Since the end of 2005, a great deal of investigation and exploration were done to establish the accreditation system including organizational structure, documentations preparation and pilot accreditation by taking reference to the general practice of international engineering education. On this basis, 4 disciplines were selected as pilot accreditation, which includes: electrical engineering and automation, mechanical engineering and automation, chemical engineering and technology and computer engineering.
In order to get prepared to join the Washington Accord, CAST has carried out extensive international exchanges with foreign engineering organizations and visited most of the Washington Accord signatories. Through these extensive dialogues and exchanges, mutual understanding was reached with most of the signatories, which is imperative for our accreditation system building and preparation for join Washington Accord.