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What is CPD, and why is it important?

CPD, or continuing professional development, can take many forms - from peer coaching to team shadowing. And while you may not have considered it in the past, it is a tool that is quickly becoming more desirable. Let’s take a look at what it is, and why it’s important.

Cpd Continued Professional Development

You may think that once you’ve landed your dream role and you’re comfortably in your groove that you don’t need to worry about anything else, and you can sit back and relax. However, you may want to think again, as you could end up lagging behind your colleagues who might have CPD experience.

CPD, or continuing professional development, essentially ensures that you continue to be proficient and competent in your profession while also furnishing you with essential skills that could help you progress with your career. It’s not just a one-stop-shop, either – it continues and develops throughout your career.

So whether you’re looking to succeed as a newly qualified teacher or you’re starting out in nursing, CPD can make you shine. Let’s take a closer look at just how CPD can help you do that.

What is continued professional development?

Continued professional development, or CPD for short, is the term used to describe the supplementary learning that professionals undertake. Usually, CPD helps to augment and enhance their abilities in the workplace. However, it encompasses much more than simply learning. 

Rather than being passive and reactive, CPD makes learning conscious and proactive, to enhance personal skills for application in the workplace. In addition, there are a variety of different methodologies involved, such as workshops, conferences, and e-learning or online courses

By engaging in CPD, you’ll ensure that neither your academic nor your practical qualifications will become obsolete. CPD offers you the opportunity for upskilling, regardless of where you are in your career, your age, or even your level of education. 

Not only does CPD help to enhance your skill set, but it also enables you to adapt to changes in the work environment too. In an ever-changing world, engaging in CPD can help you prepare for the jobs of the future, while also showing your commitment to self-development and professionalism.  

Why does CPD exist?

Albert Einstein said, ‘education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think’ – and this is certainly true when it comes to the existence of CPD. Ensuring that your skills and abilities are enhanced and expanded upon beyond formal education will permit proficiency and efficiency within your skillset. 

CPD takes the learning process an extra step, ensuring that the way you’re learning – and what you’re learning – is structured, practical, and relevant. When you start in a specific industry in a new role, you will likely have completed your academic qualifications. CPD takes further steps in the learning process and allows you to focus on any specific skills and knowledge – usually over a short time period.

By focussing on these skills over, say, a 12 month period, you’ll end up more certain of a recognisable improvement in your skill set and proficiency. So, for instance, by focussing on the skills of the future, you can ensure your career progression is secure.  

The benefits of professional development

So what are the benefits of CPD? While you may think that your education and the skills you end up learning on the job will supply you with all the relevant skills you require, CPD can really level up your profile.  This can help avoid the skills gap – something that’s as important for employers as it is for you.

With employers facing huge losses due to skills gaps, by engaging in professional development, you can quickly and easily build the skill sets required by your organisation. And by continuing your professional development, you continue to learn and develop, keeping your skills and knowledge up to date.

Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits that professional development can give you.

Stay up to date with changing trends

The world of work is constantly changing. Especially in the last 18 months, with the events of 2020, working from home has become the norm, and various pieces of software and technology have had to be embraced to adjust to this unprecedented change. Keeping up to date with trends has never been more important, and by failing to do so, your skills could become outdated.

Become more effective in the workplace

Owing to your increased knowledge, you can become much more effective in the workplace, which will open doors to career progression. Plus, you can use your increased knowledge to demonstrate your leadership skills by sharing your knowledge with others.

Maintain and enhance your knowledge to supply a better service

Refreshing your knowledge and understanding of certain skill-specific topics can make you stand out from the crowd, and can also help dust off any skills that you may have let fall down by the wayside. As such, you’re well-placed to provide a better service.

Advance the body of knowledge within your profession

By taking part in CPD, you can stay up to speed with all the different changes involving technology and everything else in your industry. For instance, in the healthcare profession, technology is continually being introduced, changed, and created, to improve people’s health. Having a knowledge of these pieces of technology will keep you and your employer a step ahead of the competition.

Increase interested in your profession

Everyone can end up jaded in their professions – but by engaging in CPD, you can open yourself up to new skill areas and fresh knowledge, encouraging you to stay engaged and interested in your role. This refreshed interest and intrigue regarding your role will make you more effective and engaged, leading to higher rates of productivity and efficiency.

Importance of CPD for employers

More often than not, the responsibility for engaging in continuing professional development lies with the individual. This can show that you have initiative and are looking to progress, two things that employers will notice. However, as issues with skills gaps continue, more and more employers are starting to encourage their employees to engage in CPD.  

There is a common misunderstanding among many employers that learning at work, and engaging in CPD, will take too much time and effort. In recent years, however, more flexible CPD options have come to the fore, and the combination of online learning, workshops, events, and even exhibitions can provide much-needed professional development as well as networking opportunities.   

Hiring managers are seeing the need to hire better skilled, more motivated, and more committed employees, and with these often in short demand, CPD can give employers the opportunity to offer focused and relevant CPD – whether that’s via their links to professional bodies and institutes or independently. 

Learning CPD

Now we have more of a grasp on what CPD is and how it is used, let’s have a look at learning CPD. In our ever-increasing globalised society, competition is rife, and the importance of continued professional development cannot be trivialised. Evolution in different industries is exciting and offers all sorts of opportunities, but it also presents challenges.

The types of CPD learning can vary and cover a wide range of different methodologies – from formal, structured training to personal study taken in your own time. Continuing professional development not only boosts the individual but also enhances the company, and so is a useful thing for companies and industries to invest in. 

CPD learning types

There are three main types, or steps, of CPD that you can engage in. A lot of CPD involves you being proactive and taking steps to equip yourself with the relevant knowledge that your industry requires. With structured CPD, however, it is in the hands of your company to encourage CPD. Let’s take a look. 

Structured/Active CPD

This form of CPD learning involves interactive study, along with participation, and is usually very proactive. Learning CPD in this format could involve attending training courses, conferences, workshops and seminars, or even taking part in an online course to help you focus on the essential skills for your career development

Reflective/Passive CPD

Learning CPD in this format doesn’t require any sort of participation and is a much more one-directional method of learning CPD. This could involve reading relevant CPD articles, engaging in podcasts, and keeping up to date with industry news.

Unstructured/self-directed CPD 

Unstructured or self-directed CPD involves all activities that you would do on your own. These include reading articles and publications, keeping up to date with industry journals and magazines, and monitoring work by leading experts in your field.  

Accredited CPD training

Accredited CPD training means that the learning you have undertaken has met the required standards and benchmarks as dictated by the CPD Certification Service. This ensures that the value of what you’re learning is of the utmost quality, and it is globally recognised. 

There are many industries that insist upon accredited CPD training as part of their membership. For instance, the Chartered Institute of Marketing requires members to have documented evidence of at least 35 hours of CPD training a year.

What is a CPD plan?

When you dive into the world of continued professional development, you’ll likely come across references to CPD plans. CPD plans are methods that you can use to both identify and record the learning and the development that you plan to undertake, to contribute to your career and your role. Having a CPD plan can help you identify the essential skills you need for your career development.  

A CPD plan will often be discussed and considered as a result of an appraisal, but it can also be used as a personal plan if you’re seeking employment or looking to change careers. It allows you to work out exactly what you should try to achieve, and to give yourself a date to achieve it too. It documents your career goals, and outlines a suitable strategy you can take to meet them.

How to make a CPD plan

There are several steps you should follow when making a CPD plan, and some key questions you need to ask yourself about where you’re going and where you’ll end up. Knowing these steps will help you to identify and develop the skills you need to progress in your industry and achieve your goals, as well as indicating to your employer what sort of skills you’re looking to focus on. 

Let’s go through these steps to creating your CPD plan, which will give you a roadmap to achieving your goals.

Assess your current situation

How is your career currently progressing? Are you where you thought you’d be at this stage of your career? Take a moment to reflect on your career and the amount of CDP you might have engaged with in the past few years. From here, you’ll know where you want to go and what you need to work on. 

Identify your goals

Next up, you have to ask yourself a tricky question – where do you really want to be? What are your short term and long term goals? Make sure that your goals follow the acronym SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Are you deciding what kind of teacher you should be? Or are you pursuing a career abroad? Knowing your goals is a really important part of a CPD plan.

Consider how you’ll achieve your goals

The next question you have to ask yourself is how you are going to achieve your goals. This is where you can identify the professional skills that you might need to develop or the skills you might need to learn outright. Your goals might have different requirements, so you need to break them down in order to create the foundations for building your career in tomorrow’s workplace

Identify required resources

Now you should consider what will help you achieve these goals. Talking to your line manager or your superior about this will really help, as they might be able to recommend upcoming training opportunities and industry conferences. They could also help you identify other areas that you might need to work on. 

A lot of this will come down to you, however. So whether you need to work on your soft skills or you need to hone your digital skills will be dependent on the goals you’re looking to achieve. 

Develop a timeline

Laying out a timeline will help you to achieve your goals. A timeframe is an integral part of a CDP plan – make sure you have realistic timings, though, and don’t get too worked up if you don’t meet your target dates. Try and schedule around your timeline around the goals you want to achieve, especially once you know about the resources you could have on offer.

Measure your progress

As you proceed with your CPD plan, you’ll want to keep an eye on your progress. Are you meeting your targets? You may need to consider more manageable steps, or adjust your targets – or even set brand new goals. Plans always end up changing, as will your goals and targets. Be sure to take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned as well, in order to identify any further development requirements. 

Final thoughts

Learning is a process that continues throughout your life, and by engaging in continuing professional development, you can ensure continued success in your career. Often it is the people who engage in CPD who become integral members of a company, as they continuously strive for new ideas and new developments. 

As businesses and professionals become more specialised, being up to speed with the latest developments in your field has never been more important, and CPD is a great way of staying competitive in the continually changing world of business. So why not start your own CPD plan and boost your skill set today?

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