What is Continuing Professional Development (CPD)? | Gary Alder

What is Continuing Professional Development (CPD)? | Gary Alder

There’s been a lot of debate in the industry recently around the topic of CPD. So, what is CPD and how can it be used to improve your own personal record? Gary Alder, CEng MIET – BMBJV, Electrical Lead at Tideway, gives his views.

Continuing professional development (a recognised term used by the professional engineering institutes around the world including the IET) should be a lifelong process to maintain and develop professional competence. After all, it helps ensure that your knowledge is up-to-date and current.

What qualifies as CPD?
This is a question that often generates a lot of debate, however I believe the key steps of a CPD cycle are reflection and application.

Reflecting on information you have gained is a key step to recognising you’ve learned and developed your understanding.

Application is then a case of implementing the knowledge you’ve gained. This could be sharing information with colleagues or utilising it as part of a design or installation.

I’ve recently started uploading my CPD from 2019 on to the IET’s ‘Career Manager’ programme, which has presented me with an opportunity to sit and reflect as to how much I’ve developed throughout the year.

Let’s break down some of the examples of continuous professional development that I managed to record:

At the beginning of the year I attended the ELEX/Toolfair show at Alexandra Palace. During the event I met manufacturers, with whom I discussed some of the newest products on the market and the latest tool developments.

Tools is an interesting subject in itself within the discussion of CPD. As I had a particularly difficult application for depth measurement when drilling, liaising with staff from the likes of Bosch, Makita and DeWALT on their own products enabled me to move forward with a greater understanding of tools and applications available, eventually applying this within an installation.

There were also seminars available, two of which I attended. The first was on surge protection, and the second on electric vehicle installations within domestic properties. It’s a fairly obvious thing to say, but attending events such as these provide great opportunities for you to acquire CPD, often at no cost.

Even during a worldwide pandemic, there have been numerous opportunities to utilise the time to professionally develop. Many industry specialists and manufacturers have been providing free CPD in the form of online presentations and webinars. I’ve completed a few of these myself, including asset management and infra-red camera thermography.

Firstly, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re already completing this avenue of CPD. Industry magazines, such as PE, will often publish technical articles on developments within the industry, or insights into the latest products.

Manufacturer training
Because manufacturers want you to utilise their products, this type of training is generally on offer all of the time. It could be something as simple as reading the installation guide and instructions, or advice to help you ‘upsell’ a product to the customer. Taking advantage of the latest products and technologies will not only help you develop, but can set an electrician apart from other contractors, especially when you’re armed with a variety of options for your quote.

An ever growing medium within the electrical industry, there are lots of podcasts that each have their own potential for CPD. I’ve found podcasts particularly easy to listen to whilst completing my daily commute.

Online resources
There are plenty of resources available for free online, with a growing expansion of electricians now sharing content on YouTube of installation methods, techniques, new products, and links to purchasing information. With adequate reflection and implementation, this can be a very effective method of CPD.

Gary CPD

The most obvious example of continuous professional development is simply those courses you undertake during your career. After becoming a chartered engineer (where it is a requirement to record continuous professional development throughout the year), I finally learned the benefit of having a proper CPD plan. This allowed me to budget minimum requirements for my job and allow me to competently continue. An example of this would be updating to the 18th edition regulations which I completed last year.

This may sound like an obvious one again, but how many of us do actually sit and complete this? Within my role as a Design Manager, I’m constantly referencing out to various British Standards I may not have encountered before. Being inquisitive and finding the answer can make something like this seem much less of a chore.

Social media
The final, more difficult item, is social media. In my view, this will be down to the individual utilising social media in the right way, which can have its benefits. Away from sharing pictures of cats and children, there’s lots of images of installations that are shared on a regular basis. On Instagram, ‘Codebreakers’ are completed across many different accounts and this is a useful way to develop experience of periodic inspections, coding and detailing where the installation has gone wrong.

Moving forwards
Although CPD is encouraged generally within this industry, the real issue comes from that fact it’s not sufficiently recorded and developed by electricians. As such, I’ve now decided to keep a CPD diary and every day I intend to log the things that I’ve learned and where I resourced it from. The real key is to be honest with yourself when reflecting.

There has never been a greater opportunity for those working within our trade to find learning opportunities outside of work time, to develop their skills and improve the industry as a whole.

Just don’t forget to record it!

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