The Importance of Continuous Professional Development (CPD)


Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is even more important now as the country begins to tackle its skills gaps and shortages and the continuing low levels of productivity in manufacturing and industrial activity. The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has recently published a timely and excellent charter on CPD.  The CIPHE have set an excellent example and lead the way for other professional bodies, employers and education and training organisations on this critically important topic.

CPD has often been identified as an essential part of lifelong learning but too often was marginalised by employers during times of financial recession and austerity when it should have been a priority.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is defined as: ‘the purposeful maintenance and improvement of your knowledge, skills and competence to carry out your professional role throughout your working life’. In other words CPD is any activity which enhances an individual’s professional practice and encompasses formal, Informal, course based, work based, individual and collaborative learning.

CPD has several purposes and takes account of training needs and career progression. It can also take a variety of forms including: studying technical literature; attending events such as seminars, conferences and exhibitions; viewing technical webinars/YouTube videos and attending manufacturers’ technical presentations.  In addition CPD can be supplemented by structured activities such as distance learning programmes, e-learning, preparation of papers and presentations, mentoring, involvement in CIPHE activities, or other relevant voluntary work.

Formal off-job training is only a part of CPD. Most learning actually takes place not through attending training courses, but through the work people do and the range of experiences they have.

Gaining qualifications is not enough – individuals need to be competent, and possess the necessary skills to keep up-to-date with new developments in the changing world of education and training as well as in their specialist subject.

Ø  ‘Competence’ – the ability to perform a particular activity to a prescribed level.

Ø  ‘Skill ‘– facility gained by practice or knowledge.

Background and Issues

During these uncertain times resulting from the ongoing global financial crisis many countries are having to carry out fundamental reviews of their economies in order to reconfigure and strengthen their economies and to reduce their debts and balance of payments.  This coupled with all the consequences of the rapid transitions and transformations occurring because of globalism e.g. out sourcing, such reviews are assuming top priority. The advent of robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data /information creation is transforming both society and work.  After completing the necessary reviews and reforms in order to rebalance this country’s economy the one most important element that must be addressed is the human resources involved in revenue creation i.e. the workers. Employers must recognise the importance of employee development and make a sustained and adequate investment by providing comprehensive programmes to improve their skills at all levels included specialist, general and transferable. This is why I welcome the CIPHE initiatve. Whatever strategies that are inevitably implemented one essential feature must be a total commitment to CPD. Too often lip service is paid by employers and politicians about CPD. If one is committed to improving efficiency, productivity, competiveness and economic health then employers, supported by government, must adopt a long term and sustained strategy.  Employees must be supported in a number of ways whether financially, time off to study and a sympathetic understanding and full recognition of the consequences for the employee involved in such activities. Policies must be consistent across companies particularly in the public services. There are instances where different government departments and ministries operate different policies especially in the financial support they provide to their employees. In this regard the example set by the government and professional bodies is pivotal.

One important element of an individual’s CPD programmes is the maintenance of a professional portfolio. The portfolio supports the CPD activities in a number of crucial ways including:

ü  Serves as personal record of development

ü  Supports self-evaluation of professional competence

ü  Assists in personal development planning

ü  Presents illustrations of skills and abilities

Demonstrates attainment of competences e.g. personal and business

ü  Provides invaluable support and evidence for professional reviews i.e. staff appraisals

ü  Provides a basis for discussion with key colleagues

ü  Assists in recording activities which may lead to accreditation at an institutional or individual level

Another key element in CPD and maintaining a portfolio is the development of critical self reflection as reflecting on and learning from experiences will assist individuals to become better workers. This will strengthen the need for individuals taking ownership of their learning.

I will provide the detail of the CIPHE Charter in another article on the website.

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