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Auditable CPD must be made compulsory for civil engineers

Unless the civil engineering commits to a system that demonstrates continuous professional development the profession will never move forward, says NCE editor Antony Oliver.
How much longer can civil engineers continue to put off the decision to make the recording and auditing of continuing professional development compulsory?
Fortunately, it would seem, not very much longer.
Last week the ICE Council once again took up the issue, and while the debate, of course, threw up and highlighted just about all of the usual objections to compulsory CPD, it is clear that being able to demonstrate that you are "up to date" is accepted as a vital part of modern professional behaviour.
As the paper presented to Council for discussion last week put it "CPD is the recognition that retaining and maintaining competence is important…. sending out a strong message to colleagues and clients about professional commitment."
It is about never losing sight of the ICE's core role in maintaining professional standards in the profession - both by qualifying individuals and then by ensuring that those standards are maintained. It is a role on which the public relies.
We should not forget that an auditable means to demonstrate on-going professional competence is now firmly established practice for other professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, environmentalists and structural engineers. If civil engineers are serious about boosting professional standing we must follow
It was therefore a hugely welcome step by Council to press forward with work which could see Council take a vote on introducing a compulsory system for civil engineers by next Spring.
Alternatively it could be put to a time-consuming and expensive full vote of the membership. Yet on the face of it, it is hard to see why members would object to such a plan.
In essence the concern expressed at Council pretty much all boils down to one thing - fear. Fear that by imposing the "burden" on members to record their CPD each year it will prompt them to walk away from professional membership.
And fear over the precise definition of what constitutes CPD, and specifically the fear that it will cost individuals and companies vast amounts in training.
Certainly there are many reasons for ensuring that competent and effective members of the Institution do not feel compelled to unnecessarily throw in their membership.
And also there are many reasons - not least the current economic climate - for ensuring that the profession does not unnecessarily add to its cost-base.
None of this is a reason for not embracing auditable CPD. Quite the reverse - it is about giving civil engineers more reason to join the ICE and about helping the industry to get better value from the training and experience it already offers.
As Council was reminded last week, CPD is not about time serving and points gathering but "the systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills, and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout your working life".
Given this, can anyone in the civil engineering really believe that we can go on being professional without compulsory, auditable CPD?

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