Continuing Professional Education

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How Can Setting Up A CPD Programme Help Your Career?

Student numbers down? Funding issues in your department? Providing Continuing Professional Development courses or seminars can be a good secondary income stream, saving jobs and building your skills. 

What is CPD?

Continuing Professional Development courses range from short, non-credit-bearing courses (such as evening seminars) right through to full degree programmes. Many professional conferences, for example, count as CPD. What it all has in common is the purpose: helping working professionals in a particular field to develop their skills over the course of their career. CPD recognises and responds to the fact that getting a degree in your 20s is not enough. To build on and improve practice, professionals need to constantly come into contact with new information and research, and take a critical approach to “the way we’ve always done it.”

It’s different from typical teaching in that, by definition, all students involved will be experienced in the field. The pressures of work can also constrain when and where courses can be offered—evenings, weekends, and block-release schemes are more attractive for this group, and courses may be offered on campus, in the workplace itself, or in a convenient third location such as a conference centre or rented meeting room. 

How to get started.

Begin with market research. Start with industry contacts, alumni from your courses, and any relevant professional organisations. Is there a key process, issue, or topic that staff need training on? If so, how would potential students and managers prefer it was delivered? Are managers incentivising staff to earn degrees or postgraduate qualifications, or would short courses better meet their needs? In some cases CPD is “bespoke”—developed directly for an employer with particular staff-development needs.

Next, check out the competition. There are many private training firms providing CPD in some fields—some are excellent, some shockingly poor. You’ll need to differentiate your course. Higher education credits or qualifications are, of course, an important plus. But consider what you have to offer in terms of breadth, depth, rigour, facilities, reputation, and price.

Finally, involve your university’s business development branch as you take your ideas forward. You will also need approval from within your department, even if it will not be a credit-bearing course. If you meet resistance, remind higher-ups that students who first encounter university staff at a training day or seminar will, if impressed, be potential students.

Career-boosting via CPD.

For lecturers, one of the best things about teaching CPD courses is that it keeps us close to how our teaching and research interacts with the real world. Students will spark new research ideas, lead you to question assumptions, and ensure that changes taking place in the field are understood and responded to early.

Contacts with working professionals are also invaluable for finding research partners and sites, and can also be filed away for a possible personal return to practice.

Finally, take-up of and feedback from your CPD offerings is one way to address the demand for proof of “impact”—especially if your work is good enough to really change and improve practice.

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