Continuous professional development: Staying the course

What one thing can you do to enhance your career prospects? Start by acquiring the relevant qualifications.

Learning and development professionals who want to study for some form of generic qualification will usually start by researching the options available from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Its Certificate in Training Practice (CTP) is still widely considered as the benchmark for the L&D profession, with holders eligible for Associate membership of the institute.

Equivalent to an NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in learning and development, the CTP is intended to “specify the knowledge and skills that an effective trainer needs” and “develop an awareness of the context for training and development, and the key issues that impact on its planning and delivery.”

Assessed through coursework and skills-based assessment, and requiring around 240 hours of study, trainers can study via a number of routes. An open learning course will cost around £2,000, while a six-month, part-time programme is around £700.

Training professionals who want to progress towards higher membership levels of the CIPD have to then go down a more generalist HR route. And while there are a number of L&D modules on the CIPD’s Professional Development Scheme, to obtain a Graduate membership level, participants will also have to study subjects such as managing and leading people, reward and employee relations.

According to Victoria Winkler, an L&D adviser at the CIPD, this reflects the changing role of the L&D manager.

She said: “L&D used to be the guardian of the suite of courses. Their remit was to run internal courses and to identify external training sources. But today, L&D professionals need to work much closer with HR and rest of the business and to understand how the L&D strategy aligns with the business strategy.”

But, says Adrian Snook, deputy chief executive at the Training Foundation, the lack of a dedicated L&D route within the CIPD proves the institute doesn’t see the function as a priority.

Now in its 10th year, the foundation specialises in development training for L&D professionals and is trying to establish itself as the champion of the profession.

Alternative options 

Snook says the courses offered by the Training Foundation more accurately reflect what is expected of modern L&D managers than the CIPD options. They start with a range of short residential courses that cost from £1,990 for a five-day course. Known collectively as the Trainer Assessment Programme (TAP) Learning System, Snook says these courses, in areas such as e-learning, blending learning, training design and facilitation skills, “build on each other to develop a career pathway for L&D professionals.”

The TAP system was recently adopted by the British Institute for Learning and Development (BILD) so that its qualifications are now mapped against BILD’s membership structure.

BILD chairman Jack Wills says this move is in line with its aim to build an organisation that L&D professionals can call their own.

He admits competing against the far-better resourced CIPD will be a tough task, but predicts that as the fledgling BILD gains prominence, so will the qualifications it has aligned itself with.

According to John Hackston, a knowledge consultant at OPP, a business psychology consultancy, the ability to administer psychometric tools is also “becoming increasingly attractive to L&D professionals.”

The company offers training in using a range of psychometric tools including the most popular, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

“Myers-Briggs is the best known in development and coaching,” said Hackston. “It can help people understand themselves and how they relate to others in a team. It enables them to discover how they can work in a positive way to achieve an outcome.”

Training to qualify to administer MBTI involves an initial three-day residential course, a month’s gap for field work, and then a second two-day residential course. In total, the study costs £2,495.

OPP also offers training in British Psychological Society-accredited certifications Level A.

Level A, which trains delegates to administer ability tests, involves three days’ study and costs £1,500. Level B, which enables users to administer personality questionnaires, requires five days’ study and costs £2,500.

Another tool that can help trainers understand the dynamic of teams is the Belbin methodology, which identifies 19 specific behavioural types.

Post-graduate diploma

According to Jill Cooper, a customer advisor at Belbin, people can use the tools without training. However, the company does run one and two-day courses to “help give users a deeper understanding.” An accredited two-day course for a group of six from the same company costs £,3,000 (+VAT). The price for an individual studying for a day and a half is £900 (+VAT).

A new programme of study that has just been announced and that may be of interest to L&D professionals is a post-graduate diploma in facilitation delivered by Roffey Park. According to course director James Traeger, the diploma, accredited by the University of Sussex, is the only university-accredited masters-level qualification in facilitation available worldwide.

The first course is expected to start this June and will take between 15 to 18 months to complete. With 23 contact days during that time, the diploma costs £9,500 but bursaries may be available, especially to self-employed candidates.

Traeger says the course, with is assessed through written papers and peer assessment, has been developed to reflect the “professionalisation of facilitation” and that it is relevant to L&D professionals, project managers and those involved in organisational development.

He said: “Facilitation is about making happen what needs to happen. Often, in a training course for example, there are bigger issues that emerge, and facilitation is about being able to deal with them.”

The course covers group dynamics, dealing with conflict, basic ice-breaking, how to energise, what choices you have when coming to a decision, and how to inspire to get people think outside the box.”

What recruiters say about CPD

According to Christine Corry, a consultant at specialist HR recruitment company BLT, evidence of some kind of continuous professional development (CPD) is desirable from L&D professionals searching for a new role.

“It shows they are committed to practising what they preach,” she said.

She says it’s is preferable that a practitioner going for an officer-level role should be studying towards a CIPD qualification, whereas, she says, some L&D directors now have MBAs, which “shows there is some commercial acumen there.”

But at specialist training recruitment agency Essence Resourcing, director Paul McMurtie says it is difficult to pin down how important a qualification is.

He said: “There are so many routes into training. It’s not like accountancy where there is one qualification everyone must achieve. Some people have no qualifications, some the CIPD, others have teaching degrees.

“If the head of training at an organisation has a City and Guilds in education then they might place more importance on that when looking for a new member of the team.”

Ultimately, says McMurtie, being able to demonstrate that you have delivered real value and a return on investment in previous jobs is worth more than any qualification.

At interim recruitment company Interim Performers, marketing manager Karen Morgan agrees: “Practical hands-on experience that shows you have made a difference is what really counts when looking for a new position.”

Case study

Having completed her CIPD certificate in training practice in 2004, independent learning consultant Helen Bailey went straight into studying towards graduate-level membership through flexible learning with provider Manchester Open Learning.

Studying L&D modules wherever possible, Bailey now only has to write up her management report to complete this phase of study.

Based in Stoke-on-Trent but working around the country, Bailey has been running her own consultancy, Coruscate Training, for 15 months, and has found the course helpful.

“It’s useful in a practical kind of way. Having recently started my own business, it has helped me with how I go about costing out training programmes,” she says.

“It has also been good to meet training and HR people from different organisations at the study sessions. We have different points of views and it has been interesting to get various perspectives on subjects.”

Bailey says for L&D professionals to have any credibility, it is important they continue to study or learn. “We, after all, are the people who stand up in front of a group and tell them what they should be doing,” she says.

She also attends one-day workshops from time to time, either to keep up with the latest issues in a subject area, such as employment law, or to learn new skills. The last one-day workshop attended was about emotional intelligence.

“I went to add to my knowledge. It was about relating to other people, which is key if you are a trainer.

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