CPD – why it matters so much

Posted on 01/01/2019 by IED

Chair of the IED Colin Ledsome focuses on Continuing Professional Development and the learning experiences that it can bring to any career

It’s been said that the half-life of the content of the final year of a technical first degree is about two and a half years. The basics you learn in the earlier years will be valid for a long time, but in the final year a student is surprisingly close to learning the latest understanding from recent research and practice.

In the early years of a career, designers will most probably work on a rather narrow range of tasks, as they learn to apply, in a pragmatic environment, the understanding gained during their degrees. As they advance, they will move on to other activities and have to apply other knowledge. Can they rely on the memory of their degree learning or should they check for the latest developments? The problem with the half-life situation is you don’t know which half. It pays to check. Design work is always about something novel, otherwise you are just copying something that has been done before. Design is an opportunity to learn, even if that only amounts to what is a better understanding of a familiar subject. Meeting with cross-disciplinary teams exposes you to new information. Finding out more about customer requirements, technical details, new materials or production methods is a learning experience. That’s what Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is all about – keeping yourself up to date and extending your ability to tackle new things.

Most CPD comes from appreciating the learning experiences you have every day. If you hear a scrap of something new, ask those questions or search the internet to find out more. You never know when some piece of information will be useful. You never stop learning. Most professionals, particularly in design, can meet their professional obligations just by realising what they are learning by carrying out their work.

If a course is available in some topic you are going to need to know about, then do it, but most CPD does not depend on formal learning. All you need to do is keep a record of it.

A training course provider I knew told me that employers would ask him, “What if I train my staff and they leave?” He would reply, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?” Most of us are on the other side of that conversation. If we don’t learn things, our usefulness will gradually diminish. CPD is worth doing, even if it’s only asking yourself what you have learned from a new experience. “Keep up to date or become out of date” has been said many times.

The IED, along with most other professional bodies, runs checks on the CPD activities of its members. It’s one of the ways we make sure standards are being maintained. If you are asked for your CPD records, you can make it easy by having a record.

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