Thursday, 21 July 2011

Mandatory CPD

The idea of life-long learning and Continued Professional Development (CPD) is a necessity in the construction industry due to ever advancing research and technology and ever changing design guidance. The requirement to keep ones knowledge updated is a requirement for membership of the Institution of Structural Engineers and other professional learned societies. Relatively recently the Institution has also made the 'reporting' of CPD a mandatory requirement of membership. This change has caused, and continues to cause, great debate amongst the membership and the topic has been discussed rather heatedly from both sides. This week my own views have been published in the Institution's magazine 'The Structural Engineer' and are repeated below. I'm interested to learn the opinions of fellow members of the IStructE and members of other professional institutions, please do comment below:

I am intrigued by recent discussions in Verulam regarding CPD. In our era of discontent over fees, salaries and status I find it absurd that some of our members see fit to claim mandatory CPD as ‘pointless’ (Roy New, 17/05/11) and ‘bureaucratic’ (Tom Arthur, 21/06/11).

Whilst the completion of annual return forms may be an inconvenience, the requirement to ‘maintain and broaden competence’ is a necessary requirement of our professional membership (IStructE Code of Conduct) and an indication to our clients and the public of our commitment to delivering appropriate engineering solutions based on current best practice.

Few can argue that we, as an internationally recognised learned society, would be in a worse position with regulated CPD returns than without. The question ‘why should we have to?' is simply indicative of a reluctance to change and a reluctance to spend time and money demonstrating what many members undertake during the course of their normal working week.

Rather than argue the merits of mandatory CPD, should we not be discussing how we are to satisfy the minimum requirements and how we can simplify the submission of CPD returns. It is the process of recording and verifying CPD that is the cause for concern and not the requirement to undertake continual learning. I can demonstrate the minimum requirement for CPD in each of the past 5 years with over 75% of the recorded time being ‘on-the-job’ learning. I ask the Institution if they would theoretically accept a CPD return with 100% self-centered learning?

With regard to simplifying the submission process, perhaps the Institution could develop an online CPD record where members can continually update their CPD thus avoiding the need to complete a single annual form. The online record could be checked by the Institution and accepted or rejected accordingly.

Mandatory CPD should not be a burden but a means of ensuring that our members maintain high standards. It also raises the profile of the Institution and safeguards against those individuals who fail to update their knowledge. Mandatory CPD benefits us and our Institution and should be welcomed by the membership.


  1. 2 points... 1stly the updating of CPD record is already possible. 2ndly and I have no basis of proof for this, but i suspect those most opposed are retired engineers who simply maintain their membership for the magazine... and the free sandwiches at technical meetings.