Comment 1: A useful definition of continuing professional development (CPD) comes from Madden and Mitchell’s (1993) research:
'The maintenance and the enhancement of the knowledge, expertise and competence of professionals throughout their careers, according to a plan formulated with regard to the needs of the professional, the employer and society.' The essential elements of this definition are reflected in most of the definitions used by the many professional associations which have in recent years introduced schemes which encourage or require their members to undertake CPD activity (Galloway 2000).
Galloway, S. (Ed)(2000) Continuing Professional Development: Looking Ahead. Economic and Social Research Council’s Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance. Oxford: SKOPE.
Madden, C.A. and Mitchell, V.A. (1993) Professions, Standards and Competence: A Survey of Continuing Education for the Professions, University of Bristol.
Comment 2: Guidance workers should be role models to others by participating in lifelong learning
Recently, a practising guidance worker said that she was pleased to be working in North London and benefiting from the NL IAG Training Programme as she had discovered at a National Conference that this CPD is not always available in the rest of the country. Sadly, the CPD in NL relies entirely on the training manager's personal commitment to training and ability to secure appropriate budgets. There is no policy on training and qualifications or any ring fenced funding for this purpose. As NL IAG Training is well attended I assume that guidance workers are not averse to CPD. As a profession, we need to influence thinking about the importance of ongoing training for our profession.
Comment 3: Skills sharing as a method of supporting CPD: an example of good practice?
Based on experiences in a variety of settings, there many factors that facilitate or block access to lifelong learning and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities. Clearly the commitment to CPD by mangers and budget holders is crucial. However, placing pressure on individual guidance workers to ‘role model’ lifelong learning to their clients is not appropriate. Guidance professionals are people too, with hectic lives juggling work and home balance! Managers should be supportive to their employees' learning processes, but ot pressure individuals to participate in training opportunities.
If funding really is the issue, there are creative ways of both accessing and developing ‘ informal’ but very effective CPD opportunities. For example: there is an IAG network in the West Country that has worked out a system in which network members deliver training sessions, free of charge, to other network members. Key features:
- sessions and workshops are often delivered at the end of network meetings;
- an audit of members and their skills is required, initially (audits are also useful in identifying shared training needs within a given network or group);
- professionals can access relevant training opportunities in a cost effective way by sharing the cost of buying in external training.
This type of skills sharing is particularly important to professionals working in the voluntary sector where finances for training is often in very short supply yet these are the very projects delivering front line services, working directly with marginalized clients and residents in hard to reach communities.
However, such practice should not create a barrier to accessing more ‘formal’ learning opportunities.
Comment 4: Funders should be encouraged to support CPD.
Pooling resources to develop accessible, cost effective learning opportunities can certainly assist CPD, but such a system should not be seen as a cure all.
Underlying questions are:
- What is the outcome for a client if the guidance professional is under trained and the service provided is not of the standard it might be?
- What could be the human and financial cost to the client?
Potentially, on both accounts, quite large: loss of confidence, self worth and money to name but a few. Managers of guidance professionals and projects need to acknowledge how important high quality guidance skills are to delivering an effective service.
Comment 5: Lifelong learning or lifelong homework?
Lifelong learning can be a double-edged sword. Not long ago, I was involved in supporting the learning of employees in companies in an aerospace supply chain. We were trying to get them to complete reflective assignments on what they had learned from working in collaborative process improvement teams. One employee pointed out that the reason he was not keen to make this extra step was because it felt too much like lifelong homework. As soon as he said that I could see his point and lifelong homework has a very different connotation to lifelong learning.
Comment 6: Where does supervision figure in IAG - if at all?
This is now being pushed forward within Connexions and professional associations (like ICG) are beginning to take an official view on supervision as desirable. Do we see a time in the not too far distant future when supervision could form the core of CPD in IAG?
Comment 7: Whilst highly desirable, there are lots of reasons why supervision is not currently standard practice.
- majority of the service delivery are 'advice episodes';
- guidance workers delivering guidance may not be supported by guidance qualified managers (e.g. we have a private provider in NL working entirely alone);
- costs are incurred should other agencies volunteer to provide supervision (e.g. travel lost delivery time, or consultancy fees if service is bought in);
- as the IAG sub contracting model involves competitive bidding, inter agency collaboration will not always occur;
- Matrix accreditation can (apparently) be achieved without this.
A good practice example of a CPD policy for an IAG organisation (2004)