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ICE's Professionalism Panel chair explains why the institution is introducing a CPD framework.
2017’s Grenfell Tower tragedy was a dark moment in the history of the construction industry. It brought into sharp focus the practices and professionalism that exist in sectors allied to construction such as our own. Could a similar tragedy happen in our sector? Are we doing enough as an industry to make sure that the people working in it are competent throughout their working life? This is especially true as careers can often change direction.
In 2018, ICE’s then-President Tim Broyd asked Professor Peter Hansford to review whether we fully understand the potential vulnerabilities in our economic infrastructure.
Peter’s report “In Plain Sight: Assuring the whole-life safety of infrastructure” was the final output of this review. This far-reaching and candid report made a series of recommendations designed to help mitigate the risk of infrastructure failure across the built environment.
In Peter’s words: “We, the profession and its members, already know many of the factors that can contribute to failure of infrastructure assets. They are among us as we undertake our work as engineers, day in and day out; and yet they can be hiding in plain sight because of their very familiarity.”
One of the key recommendations of the report was that the ICE should ‘identify and communicate mandatory risk-related topics, themes and reading lists for members to include in their annual CPD learning’.
As a key part of its remit, the Professionalism Panel has welcomed the opportunity to work with the ICE expert communities in examining a range of core and specialist CPD topics necessary to demonstrate to the public that civil engineers are maintaining their competence in order to keep them safe.
The result is the new ICE CPD framework that will launch next year offering guidance to members on activities they should undertake to demonstrate competence against these core topics alongside additional topics specific to the discipline they work in.
ICE will also begin to launch corresponding CPD activities which will be made available free to all members, and these will be continually revised and updated to make sure they remain relevant.
While the In Plain Sight report provided the catalyst that led to the creation of the framework, topics such as risk management and public safety are amongst several themes in which civil engineers must continue to demonstrate competency if they are to play their role in improving society for the better.
We have therefore broadened the framework scope to include topics that cover contemporary themes such as digital transformation, decarbonisation and productivity.
Moreover, while the topics are aimed at professionally qualified members (those holding a CEng, IEng or EngTech qualification), they may also be relevant to members from other grades to address as part of their professional development, and I encourage all members to seek them out when they are released.
The new framework, and the accompanying learning modules, are the starting point of a programme to offer clearer guidance for members on how to demonstrate they are maintaining their professional development throughout their careers. The idea is that the framework content and learning modules are changed regularly to reflect the topics of the day.
We recognise that ICE enjoys a broad and diverse membership working across many sectors, and so we are keen to hear your feedback on the relevance of the disciplines and topics we have selected. Future iterations of the framework and modules will be considered and designed following this feedback.
We also recognise that not all CPD is gained through attending seminars and undertaking online activities, so the framework is intended to act as a central core around which other CPD activities can exist.
Continuing professional development isn’t an option, a nice thing to do. As an industry, and as individual civil engineers, we need to take responsibility for making sure a tragedy like Grenfell never happens again and we must always retain the publics confidence in our profession.
We must all have a good understanding of the big challenges that society faces, such as climate change and urbanisation, and we must recognise the contemporary landscape in which our profession exists. A grounding in digital transformation, productivity and data security is as important as an understanding of traditional civil engineering skills such as ground engineering, materials and structures, if we are to face these challenges armed with the right skills.
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