Aidan O’Flaherty outlines the reasons behind Engineers Ireland’s new CPD policy, which will launch next January, and the benefits it will bring to members of the organisation
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Being part of a professional body is all about demonstrating your professional competence. Given the nature of what engineers do and the industries they work in, not to mention keeping up with ever-changing technologies and increasingly stringent standards, they need to be constantly learning to maintain and enhance their competence.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is the key to staying up-to-date and ahead of the pack. As a result, Engineers Ireland is set to introduce a new CPD policy on 1 January 2017, which reflects the importance of learning for professional purposes.

Aidan O’Flaherty, CPD executive with Engineers Ireland, outlined the provisions of the new policy for EngineersJournal.ie readers (see previous article for an introduction to the new CPD policy). “It’s really very simple,” he explained. “Engineers Ireland is introducing a requirement for members to undertake and record 35 hours of CPD per annum. The policy is effective from 1 January 2017 and the CPD cycle will run from 1 January to 31 December.”

On joining Engineers Ireland, all members make a fundamental commitment to ongoing self-improvement. They sign the Code of Ethics, declaring that they will strive to maintain and enhance their professional standards and competence. It is this underpinning ethos – the professional obligation to learn – that is a decisive contributor to the credibility in society of the engineering professional and the profession itself.

Professional bodies and international standards


Engineers Ireland is introducing the new policy to move into line with international CPD best practice and with other leading professional bodies, national and international, engineering and non-engineering.

Most professional bodies – such as those of lawyers, surveyors and architects – now require their members to undertake and record their CPD activities, O’Flaherty said. So, by introducing the new policy, Engineers Ireland is demonstrating to stakeholders that the profession is committed to maintaining and enhancing standards. “Of course, it’s also of benefit to members,” added O’Flaherty. “You can clearly demonstrate to employers, peers and indeed potential employers that you meet certain professional standards, you’re keeping up with developments in the engineering profession and that you’re committed to developing your competence.”

The new policy applies to all non-student members – with some exemptions and pro-rata requirements. These apply to: retired members; those on maternity, paternal or sabbatical leave; or members who have had periods of unemployment. There is also a simple, two-step process which facilitates dispensation for members working for CPD Accredited Employers.

Other professional bodies ask their members to undertake anything from 16 to 50-plus hours. Engineers Ireland has selected 35 hours in line with the requirement of the Engineers Ireland’s Accredited Employer standard. The 35-hour minimum for this standard was determined from research into CPD activities across a wide range of leading engineering-led organisations in a cross-section of industries.

“For many of these organisations, the amount of CPD undertaken on average by their engineering cohort was far higher than 35 hours,” said O’Flaherty. “Other professional bodies are quite prescriptive about the type of CPD to be undertaken, but Engineers Ireland is leaving it to the individual member to decide what CPD best suits their own unique circumstances.

“As a general guide, though, we’d recommend that members undertake a mix of technical and non-technical/soft skills and also a balance of structured CPD such as courses, free lectures or mentoring, and non-structured such as self-directed reading or online research,” he added.

Undertaking and recording CPD


O’Flaherty was keen to stress that the majority of Engineers Ireland members are already undertaking the required 35 hours, even if they might not yet be recording it. “CPD is not just paid-for training; it’s learning. Thirty-five hours a year equals less than one hour’s learning a week, which happens ‘on the job’, in most cases. The new policy won’t mean an additional outlay on training or CPD. The new policy is promoting best practice; it’s not a revolution.”

O’Flaherty stated the definition of CPD: “The systematic maintenance, enhancement and development of knowledge and skill, and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout the practising engineering professional’s career.” So, CPD is any activity that enables someone to develop competencies relevant to their profession. Engineers Ireland divides CPD activities into six broad types:

  • Work-based learning;
  • Professional bodies activities;
  • Self-directed learning;
  • Mentoring and coaching;
  • Courses, seminars and conferences;and
  • Further education.

“You can see from this list that not all learning takes place with a group or facilitator,” continued O’Flaherty. “Structured, self-directed learning, where you take time to learn in a planned and organised manner, also counts as CPD.” This includes structured reading of journals or reports, or online viewing of presentations or tutorials (for this ‘self-directed learning’, Engineers Ireland recommends a maximum of 14 hours of the 35-hour requirement).

“The key question to ask yourself is: ‘Am I learning something new that will contribute to my professional competencies – my knowledge, skills and qualities?’ If the answer is ‘Yes’, then this activity counts as CPD,” said the Engineers Ireland CPD executive. “The point is, we benefit most from our learning activities when they are planned, recorded and reflected upon.”

  • Planning CPD activities allows you to set and prioritise learning goals and decide what actions you will undertake to achieve them. This will help you to target your learning effectively;
  • Recording CPD activities allows you to keep a record of your CPD activities to refer to at a later date as well as demonstrating adherence to the CPD policy. It also allows you to look at the balance of your CPD activities over a period;
  • Reflecting on your CPD activities allows you to ask yourself questions such as: ‘What did/will I learn?’ and ‘How did I/will I apply the learning?’ It provides the opportunity to consider what further CPD activities might be undertaken to reach your professional goals.

“Most of us, at some time in our career, have probably attended a course or carried out some online research on the fly, without really asking ourselves what we’ve gotten out of it or reflecting afterwards on what we’ve learned,” said O’Flaherty. “This is why it’s so important to keep records of our learning. What’s more, if we make no record, we may struggle to remember when we did it, who delivered it or what was it called. That type of learning leaves no impact.”

My CPD


This is where Engineers Ireland’s ‘My CPD’, an online recording tool to accompany the new policy, is of major benefit to members. This central repository will be located on the Engineers Ireland website to facilitate storage of all your CPD records. “It’s quick, simple and easy to use,” said O’Flaherty, “and you can access, download or print out your records at any time. Recording CPD only takes minutes, so it’s not an onerous task at all.”

The online system has been developed after consultation with other professional bodies, which advised against rolling out a feature-heavy tool. “We’ve kept it simple and prioritised functionality for ease of use,” explained O’Flaherty. “We’ll be starting a two-month pilot programme very shortly and will be gathering feedback from those members who participate. Our aim is that ‘My CPD’ is as straightforward as possible, for all our members to use and benefit from.

“In summary, Engineers Ireland hopes that the new CPD policy and the ‘My CPD’ tool will strengthen engineers’ reputation for professionalism and excellence, and provide individual members with a valuable resource available to them throughout their career,” concluded O’Flaherty.

Engineers Ireland has created a new ‘What counts as CPD?’ poster as a quick reminder of the different activities you can count as CPD. If you have any queries about the new Engineers Ireland CPD policy, please email cpdpolicy@engineersireland.ie.

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Being part of a professional body is all about demonstrating your professional competence. Given the nature of what engineers do and the industries they work in, not to mention keeping up with ever-changing technologies and increasingly stringent standards, they need to be constantly learning to maintain and enhance their...