Last edited 08 May 2016

Continuing professional development

The phrase ‘continuing professional development’ (cpd) describes activities undertaken by professionals to ensure their skills and knowledge remain up-to-date.

Continuing professional development is becoming more important in all professions as the rate of change and number of specialisms increases. In the construction industry, cpd has become a vital part of a professional career as a result of; continuous and accelerating changes in technology, regulations and procurement practices; increasing specialisation; and the complexity and integration of the supply chain.

It is no longer adequate to obtain a professional qualification at the beginning of a career and then to work for 40 or 50 years with no further structured pattern of learning. Instead, lifelong learning is becoming the norm, with professionals taking part-time courses and short courses to understand emerging innovations such as building information modelling (BIM) or taking career breaks and returning to full-time education to improve or develop an aspect of their practice.

Many of the industry’s professional institutes require that members undertake cpd as a condition of continued accreditation (such as the RIBA, CIOB, RICS, RTPI, CIAT, ICE, IStructE and so on), and for some professions (such as architects) it is a statutory requirement.

Some requirements for continuing professional development are relatively loose, for example the Architects' Registration Board (ARB) requires that architects keep relevant knowledge and skills up-to-date, and are aware of the content of any guidelines issued by the Board, but they permit architects to ‘think laterally’ and encourage them to undertake cpd in a number of ways. Similarly, the CIOB states, ‘We think members are in the best position to know how best to brush up their skills‘.

In contrast, others are more prescriptive. For example, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) expect chartered members to participate in a system that focuses on time and gaining 100 CPD points each year, and a core curriculum, requiring that architects undertake at least 35 hours of CPD, with 20 hours coming from the ten topics in a 10 core curriculum topics (with 2 hours on each topic each year). These are: Being Safe, Climate, External Managements, Internal Management, Compliance,Procurement and contracts, Designing and building it, Where people live, Context, Access for all.

The RIBA provide a CPD Network of over 550 organisations that provide CPD, as well as core seminars that contribute toward this, alongside various training programmes and volunteering programmes.

Some institutes require that cpd is planned and recorded, and some will randomly check members' compliance.

Cpd may be formal, informal, structured or self-directed. Generally, if an activity helps meet a professional development objective (or helps others meet professional development objectives), it may count as CPD. This might include:

  • Internal discussions or meetings.
  • Training another member of staff.
  • Supervising students.
  • Attending in-house training events.
  • Undertaking short courses.
  • Attending conferences, seminars or workshops.
  • Taking part in competitions.
  • Research for writing articles.
  • Distance learning.
  • Online learning (such as the CIOB cpd portal).
  • Reading government policies.
  • Reading technical reports.
  • Reading magazines, websites or other literature.
  • Researching new products or methods.

There are a number of cpd providers that offer face-to-face, online or distance cpd products which often involve reading materials and then answering multiple choice questions. Cpd certificates may be issued on successful completion of a subject or module.

Some professionals see cpd as an unnecessary bureaucratic burden, and claim that they learn throughout their careers during the course of their work. However, cpd should not be seen as a box-ticking exercise. It can provide a formal structure for learning that is happening anyway, and properly planned, it allows professionals to analyse their needs and direct their learning in a focussed way that will be of greater benefit to their day-to-day activities.

NB there is a degree of confusion between the requirements of the Architects’ Registration Board and the Royal Institute of British Architects. However, the ARB state, ‘if you are a member of the RIBA, and you comply with their CPD requirements (or those of another appropriate professional body) you are likely to satisfy the Board.'

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