A year's worth of continuing professional development for a day at Civils 2002?
Surely not. But that is what is up for grabs as the Institution of Civil Engineers sets the record straight. Mark Hansford explains.
Ask any civil engineer for a view on continuing professional development (CPD) and you can predict the answer.
There is a familiar list of complaints: 'Boring', they reply.
'Expensive and time consuming.
Irrelevant, hard to understand and even harder to get. I'm only doing it to get chartered.'
But it doesn't have to be that way. The reason CPD is seen as such a burden is that most people simply don't realise when they are doing it, says ICE professional development manager Niall O'Hea.
O'Hea will use a seminar at Civils 2002 to explain the fundamentals of CPD and inform engineers that numerous activities in which they are already engaged count for CPD.
'CPD can be anything you want it to be. It could even be art, ' he says, citing an initiative launched by consultant Connell Mott MacDonald aimed at improving engineers' visual communication skills by sending them to life drawing classes (NCE 11 April).
'It all hinges on a basic question, ' says O'Hea. 'You have to ask: 'where do I want to go?'
Once you know that, CPD can be used to drive your ambition.'
CPD is not a matter of attending compulsory courses and evening seminars organised or recommended by your company, but of pursuing activities that demonstrably move you towards your goal.
'No one can actually give you CPD, ' explains O'Hea. 'You have to take it.' CPD hinges on what an engineer learns through the experience. 'If they're asleep at the back of the lecture theatre or they learn nothing from being at an event, it's not CPD. But if the attendee is active and gains something from it, it is.'
He adds: 'Course organisers will ask the ICE if their courses can be accredited for CPD. For this, the answer is no. The ICE can't accredit courses because it is down to the course attendee to decide whether the experience has been useful, not the provider.'
Of course, CPD is not all for the benefit of the individual. As a qualifying institution, the ICE must be seen to be setting standards that ensure its members achieve, maintain and develop their professional competence.
ICE 2008 Continuing professional development: a guide for members sets out the requirements for CPD, which it defines as 'the systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skill, and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout your working life'.
The guide recommends that every member maintains a development action plan and personal development record.
Engineers should be aiming to achieve a minimum of five days' or 30 hours' CPD per year, it says.
The ICE also sets out a minimum mandatory level of initial professional development for those training under agreement towards full membership - 30 days for those sitting the chartered professional review and 20 days for the incorporated professional review. It is an apparently onerous undertaking, but the range of both structured and unstructured activities that can comprise CPD are vast.
And it is impossible to pursue professional ambitions without doing it, states O'Hea. 'To get there, to get promoted, you will have to do CPD.' CPD does not just come from attending courses and conferences, he adds, but from gaining experience of new technologies, reading books and professional magazines, visiting exhibitions, and on the job training.
The key, O'Hea explains, is planning, recording and monitoring activities. O'Hea will be manning the ICE stand at Civils 2002 in June to set out the range of activities that fall within the bounds of CPD. He is confident that any member visiting the ICE stand will discover that they are already clocking up, at the minimum, five days' annual CPD requirement that they simply didn't realise was there.
But, while CPD - even unplanned CPD - can only be positive, O'Hea will be keen to emphasise the value of planning.
INFOPLUS Niall O'Hea will open the Civils 2002 seminar programme on 11 June at 10.30am.
Find out more on the seminar programme, live debates and keynote speeches at the Civils 2002 website: www. civils.co.uk.
To book a stand Pre-register today For more information about Civils and to pre-register, visit www. civils.co.uk Call Sally Devine on (020) 7505 6644 or email sally. devine@construct. emap. com or Russell Kenrick on (020) 7505 6882 fax (020) 7505 6699 or email russell. kenrick@construct. emap. com