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Going for the record

The ICE hopes to revitalise the approach to Continuous Professional Development. Damian Arnold spoke to ICE professional development manager Sue Beavil-Till.

Next week the ICE will unveil its revamped approach to Continuing Professional Development. It is hoped that Continuing Professional Development: A guide for members will herald a culture change to engineer's attitudes.

Included in new record sheets, to be sent to all engineers, will be the Development Action Plan. This will complement the Personal Development Record, on which members list their professional objectives in order of priority, assessing the value of subsequent CPD activity.

ICE members will not be directly coerced into filling in the record sheets, although the Institution can discipline, and ultimately expel, those who fail to do so. ICE wants to encourage members to get into a regular cycle of planning CPD training in advance and then reviewing it in the context of their career development.

ICE Professional Development Manager Sue Beavil-Till who developed the new guide says: 'The problem up to now with CPD forms is that they've tended to be a ticking exercise.

'The new Personal Development Record, replacing the old 108 record sheet includes a section where the member is asked to fill out in detail what the key benefits were of a particular exercise, creating a review of objectives in the action plan.'

Beavil-Till joined the ICE as the first staff member dedicated exclusively to CPD in February 1998. She was formerly a CPD expert at the Royal Institute of British Architects. After joining the ICE, she has been encouraged by what she views as a CPD rich profession.

'The vast majority of qualified members undertake CPD on a regular basis. What they don't do is make a formal record. This is partly because they don't actually know they are doing it.

'For example, members approaching a fellowship interview, often have hurriedly to remember years of CPD for their interview. Putting their mind to it, it's amazing how much CPD experience they can call on. It's done in an ad hoc manner and there's nothing wrong with that, that's life.'

Some respondents to the NCE training poll called for more CPD regulation with a formal review process. Beavil-Till rejects this as being counterproductive to what should be a positive, even enjoyable exercise.

'All we are saying is that people would be a lot healthier professionally if they gave a bit of time to themselves once or twice a year, and we are not asking for reams and reams of material.'

Next month ICE members will receive a guide to a wide range of activities which can count toward CPD.

'There's a need to show that CPD is not difficult or costly because the majority of members seem to think it's about going on courses. We hope this guide will show that courses are a tiny part of CPD,' says Beavil- Till.

On the job research, new technology experience, reading books, journals and professional magazines and periodicals are included. 'There's no limit to what you could include. Even outlandish things like acquiring a knowledge of the Japanese tea ceremony to show that you are familiar with the etiquette of a potential client.'

Beavil-Till is keen to emphasise how filling in the new CPD forms can help members in their careers. 'The new record sheets can be used as appraisal forms at work or to back up CVs. Prospective employers would be impressed at the commitment you have shown to your development,' she says.

Winning over the many employers who view CPD as costly and unnecessary is as vital as getting members' pens wagging.

'Some employers have the attitude of 'why invest time and money in an employee who will then go and leave us?' We say to them: 'if you do not provide reasonable training they are going to leave you much more quickly.' On the positive side, good CPD practice will help firms in their quest for Investor in People status.'

Beavil-Till believes that civil engineering compares unfavourably with other professions, especially health care, in gaining training funding from government agencies. 'We appreciate that it's difficult for the smaller companies to fund training. Financial help is at hand from Training & Enterprise Companies. There are 82 of them in England and Wales.'

ICE also plans to encourage more civils firms to adopt ICE training agreements for the development of young, graduate engineers under the supervision of senior colleagues.

'It makes sense for people to continue to have access to a mentor and we would like to set up widespread mentoring on a voluntary basis. We hope people will come forward because one of the requirements of CPD is to assist others and share expertise,' said Beavil-Till.

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