A common misconception when it comes to talking about CPD (continuing professional development) is that CPD means paying for and attending training courses or seminars. And yes, a paid training course can count as CPD, but it goes far beyond attending training courses and very often will cost nothing other than an investment in time and effort. CPD has been defined as: “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 an individual to develop competencies which are relevant to their profession. It is essentially learning for professional purposes. 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;
    • Further education.
[caption id="attachment_29447" align="alignright" width="212"]Engineers Ireland CPD Engineers Ireland's new CPD poster (CLICK TO ENLARGE)[/caption] Each of these CPD types includes activities that involve learning new knowledge and skills or developing new personal qualities, which will allow the individual to better carry out their professional activities. At work, we often participate in knowledge sharing activities. In many engineering-led organisations, ‘lunch and learn’ presentations, delivered by either internal or external experts, are very popular. At these presentations, we learn about new technologies, new standards, new processes, all of which will enable us to do our job better. This is CPD. Being an active member of a professional body, such as Engineers Ireland, offers many opportunities to develop our competencies. For example, if we sit on a special interest committee, we acquire valuable knowledge from other industry leaders. Not only that, but we can learn to chair meetings or present to others. These skills are invaluable in the workplace. Another example of a professional body activity that counts as CPD is volunteering through STEPS to go out to schools and promote engineering. Standing up in front of a group and explaining sometimes very technical concepts in layman’s terms is no easy task. And doing so in front of a group of 30 curious teenagers, even more so. But by undertaking this activity, we develop confidence and abilities that will be called upon in front of future employers or clients. Not all learning takes place with a group or facilitator. Structured, self-directed learning, where we take time to learn in a planned and organised manner, also counts as CPD. This can take a number of forms including structured reading of journals or reports or online viewing of presentations or tutorials. The key 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. Many engineering-led organisations now see activities such as mentoring or coaching as highly effective means of developing potential and sharing knowledge – particularly tacit knowledge. Thus, these activities count as CPD – and not just for the mentee or coachee. It is well recognised that mentors and coaches develop their own professional qualities – be it self-awareness or listening and questioning skills - through these conversations. Both the mentors/coaches and mentees/coachees should be counting the time spent in these relationships as CPD. Traditional training courses, seminars and conferences, where relevant to the individual’s professional activities, count as CPD. We learn not only from the trainer, facilitator or presenters but also from fellow delegates at these events. They are excellent opportunities to benchmark our knowledge with others and learn from industry experts. Finally, many of us will choose to return to formal, third-level institutions to study for further qualifications such as certificates, diplomas, masters and even PhDs and these too all count as CPD. There are many activities that count as CPD. Not all require spending money. Not all need to be undertaken in a room with others. Not all involve the acquisition of technical knowledge. If you are undertaking an activity where you are learning something new, which will enable you to better carry out your professional activities, then you are undertaking CPD – so count it! Engineers Ireland has created a new ‘What counts as CPD?’ poster as a quick reminder of the different activities you can count as CPD. Why not print it off and place it in your workplace? Aidan O'Flaherty is a CPD executive with Engineers Ireland.