Should on-the-job training and career development be compulsory for all professional civil engineers? ICE Council had a brief, but interesting, discussion last week on just this issue.
Antony Oliver is NCE's editor
However, judging by what was written in the paper and said by Council members, it will surely not be long before the planning, execution and recording of every professional civil engineer's continuing professional development (CPD) becomes more formalised.
And about time, too, I say. Bring it on. After all, why shouldn't civil engineers fall in line with many other professions such as chartered surveyors and lawyers by adopting a verifiable and recognisable system to show that they keep up to date with the latest thinking and practice? The sooner it happens, the better.
Now you might think that in a profession that is universally desperate for more recognition and reward, few would disagree with the introduction of mandatory CPD. It does, after all, represent a tangible way to demonstrate your professional competence.
Yet, judging from some of the points raised around the Council room last week, it might not be a universally popular decision among ICE members.
I can't really say that I'm surprised.
Disappointed, but not surprised. But this is a bullet that we must bite.
As Council heard, there is much fear and many questions surrounding the whole issue. How much CPD is considered enough; should there be a minimum number of days; what actually constitutes valuable learning for professional engineers?
It was on the latter point that one of the most bizarre concerns was raised. Any attempt to make CPD mandatory, we heard, could risk seeing engineers regularly herded to conferences and events simply "to collect a bag of free goodies then go home".
Now, as someone who not only attends many such industry events but also fronts up dozens of them each year, I must say I felt slightly bemused! Certainly, some events are better and more valuable than others but we are talking about grown-up professionals here who surely understand that learning goes beyond free literature.
My experience is that anything that gets civil engineers out of their offices and into a neutral environment to chew over the issues facing their profession with their peers is a good thing. And even that on its own is valuable CPD.
So on that note, may I add to this week's cover story and give you a 51st reason for going to Civils 2007. Get yourself down to Earls Court in two weeks time to meet the industry, learn about what's new and make some new contacts. It's free CPD and it could also make you a better engineer.