The importance of continuous professional development

By Turlach McAlister, director with Clarion Resourcing

The world doesn’t stand still, and neither should you.

Pursuing continuous professional development (CPD) is perhaps the only way of ensuring that you future-proof your skills, stay relevant to leading employers and extend the longevity of your chosen profession.

So what is CPD?

According to Graham Guest, in a piece for the Continuous Professional Development Institute, CPD is defined as;

The systematic maintenance and improvement of knowledge, skills and competence, and the enhancement of learning, undertaken by an individual throughout his or her working life.

Remaining competitive in a market where business and technology is evolving at the speed of light should form an integral part of your career development.  But it takes time, money and significant personal commitment to ensure you stay ahead of the curve.

There has been a notable shift in recent times away from employer-led to employee-led CPD.  While in the past employees may have been able to benefit from generous, sponsored educational programs, which were mandated from the top down, this is changing.  In many organisations, the onus is now on the employee to take more responsibility for their own professional development but with the firm support of the employer behind them.

Permanent employees are in a fortunate position as many can benefit from funding in part or in whole towards the cost of training.  Very often, this financial contribution is supplemented by a number of extra days leave for studying or examinations.

As a contractor, it is definitely more difficult, as continuous education has to be funded out of your own pocket (although it is fully tax deductible) and it can be more difficult to get study leave or time off for exams.

The reality is, whether you’re a permanent employee or working on a contract basis, the concept of ‘lifelong learning’, either through formal or informal channels is one you simply cannot escape.

Ignoring CPD in a profession such as IT just isn’t an option.  With technologies and standards in a constant state of flux, professional accreditations with hardware and software vendors must be maintained so IT resellers and distributors almost always have a documented educational program for their engineering and support staff.  This is great news for IT professionals as increasingly these accreditations are completely portable and certified against the individual and not the organisation.

Similarly, IT professionals responsible for developing and maintaining IT infrastructure are constantly under pressure to stay abreast of new technologies and for setting a roadmap of hardware and software requirements to support the business into the future.  This mandates certain skillsets and the on-going nurturing and development of those skills over time.

CPD is also an important consideration for organisations when trying to win the war for talent.  Particularly in areas where skills are in short supply, the existence of a structured CPD path for employees can be the difference between the individual accepting an offer of employment and the employer having to continue the long and arduous search for that elusive candidate.  Questions on CPD in the interview process are critical therefore, and will give you some insight into the organisation’s commitment to staff.

It’s interesting to note a recent article in CIO, making the point that CIOs have to ‘rescue the concept of professional development’ by making it the cornerstone of a successful employee retention policy.

Professional organisations can be a great source of education and knowledge-sharing.  For example, as a member of the Irish Computer Society (ICS) or the Irish Software Association (ISA), you can you can attend briefings, seminars or information sessions, some of which are free of charge.  As a project management practitioner, the PMI (Project Management Institute Ireland Chapter) is the place to be and it also offers a regular schedule of events and briefings, and not just in Dublin.

Bodies such as these place CPD at the very heart of their activities and use every opportunity to encourage and assist individuals in their pursuit of lifelong learning.  While it may not always be possible to attend events due to work or family commitments, making sure that you receive their regular news bulletins will keep you up-to-date with developments in those professions and make you aware of the various educational options open to you.

On March 21st, 2013, posted in: Blog by


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