Continuing professional development (CPD) is integral to career success for researchers and professionals. That said, many find it difficult to manage their progress and keep track of what they’ve done. This is where society membership can help.
We spoke to Ian Bowbrick, Director of Professional Development & Membership at The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) to get his take on CPD for researchers and find out how IOM3 supports its members with theirs.
Why is CPD so important for researchers and professionals?
The purpose of CPD is to maintain your knowledge, understanding, and level of competence. This is more important than ever since we’ve seen the rate and pace of change in technology speed up. We live in a knowledge-based economy where competence and knowledge are crucial commodities. CPD helps you keep your value in the marketplace.
We’re also seeing more businesses recognize the value of CPD. When pitching for big projects – certainly in the mining industry – companies must make sure their employees have a grasp of the latest technologies, processes, and equipment.
What does continuing professional development look like?
It’s important to note here that CPD doesn’t just mean training and courses. It’s any activity that extends or updates an individual’s knowledge or understanding. So, although training is a very valuable aspect, it is only a very small part.
People get too hooked up on the assumption they need to do a certain number of hours.
“Continuing professional development: the clue is in the word ‘continuing’.”
It’s not an annual process: it is a lifelong cycle that starts the day you graduate, and finishes the day you retire. Everybody does it, even if it’s listening to the radio in the morning and taking in some information that inspires further reading.
Societies can help researchers find more varied opportunities for development. At IOM3 we provide people with access to:
- local society and central meetings
- the online offering including Materials World
- and networking opportunities provided by our events.
How to make CPD work for you
“CPD needs to be considered as a normal part of professional life for all academic staff; it needs to be self-directed and planned within the relevant context.” – Continuing Professional Development in Higher Education: what do academics do? By Dr. Helen King.
As a society, IOM3 is very committed to ensuring that CPD is a bespoke arrangement. We recognize that as people progress through their careers their needs change. Networking, for example, is always valuable, but becomes more so the more senior you are.
Development is also specific to occupation. All our members ground their CPD in engineering, science, technology, and environment. But not all focus on the technical side of the industry. CEOs or salespeople, for example, will have very different needs from engineers.
How can researchers manage their professional development?
People often struggle to record their CPD or write a reflective statement on what they’ve learnt. This makes it difficult to show their progress. Again, this is where society membership can help.
At IOM3 we have ‘My Career Path’, an online recording system where our members can log their CPD. Each member has a personal account where they can record their activities. They can even access these accounts when they’re at a conference or event and log their participation straightaway. Even for the more analog people among us, it’s enough to pull out your diary and make a few notes. It is just a matter of discipline, and a cultural change for a lot of people.
Ultimately, a society’s role is not to tell its members they have ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ with their CPD. We’re not careers advisers. Instead our role is to help members recognize what they have done, and offer guidance about where to go next.
Ian Bowbrick is Director of Professional Development and Membership at The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. He has worked in CPD for over 25 years, and is also a Chartered Environmentalist and a Chartered Engineer.