Why Continuing Professional Development is not as daunting as it sounds
The need for ongoing skills maintenance, often referred to as Continuous Professional Development (CPD), is being discussed both at the Plumbing Advisory Committee and in the context of the renewal of the Regulations. Master Plumbers supports the need for skills maintenance, particularly in relation to the multitude of new products and materials that are now available.
CPD schemes have been working well in a number of professions for over a century. Initiatives for the building and construction industries are a more recent development that are currently evolving and on the rise as they are found to be more valuable. A common misperception of CPD is that training is something that has to take place in the classroom. Quite to the contrary, CPD can be delivered in many modes, both informal and formal. Of course there are the usual professional courses, seminars and conferences; but you can also tick off CPD through webinars, self-managed learning, information technology training or even delivering or receiving coaching. The possibilities for development are endless and really, not as daunting as they may first seem.
In 2016, Tasmania became the first State in Australia to introduce compulsory CPD for all licensed trades. While there has been a CPD regime in place for building practitioners since 2005 – plumbers, gasfitters and electricians are not required to undertake CPD. The Tasmanian Government introduced compulsory CPD in response to the level of defective works in plumbing and the associated risks to consumers and more broadly the general public.
Master Plumbers Tasmania Executive Officer Angela Ayling talks about why CPD is working so well in the southern state.
‘Plumbing as a profession is becoming increasingly technical and diverse. It’s heavily regulated because the risks to public health and the environment from non-compliant plumbing are so significant.’
‘Safe plumbing is the cornerstone of public and environmental health and safety and, as guardians of such, licensed plumbing professionals must be fully informed on all matters that affect the delivery of compliant plumbing services to the community. A robust program of quality CPD is one method for ensuring that plumbing professionals remain current in their skills, knowledge and practices in a technical profession that is constantly evolving.’
In Ayling’s opinion, the benefits of a meaningful and quality based CPD program are numerous and include, but are not limited to:
- Increased positive consumer outcomes;
- Increased public and environmental outcomes;
- Reduced faults presenting risk to building / structure integrity;
- Increased health and safety outcomes;
- Reduced liability and commercial risks to plumbing businesses;
- Reduced insurance claims through non-compliant plumbing works;
- Reduced complaints to statutory authorities;
- Strengthened business viability through reductions in rectificationworks
- Increased ability for plumbing businesses to safely introduce new and emerging technologies, for example hydronic installations.
The Master Plumbers Association of Tasmania (MPAT) has worked closely with the Tasmanian Regulator in the introduction of CPD for the Plumbing Industry and has developed a program of approved CPD activities through an online portal called CPD Toolbox.
As records of CPD are required by the Regulator on renewal of licence, CPD Toolbox enables users to:
- See what CPD activities are available including online activities;
- Register online for activities
- Upload other CPD activities;
- Keep records of CPD activities including points gained;
- Get information and news on CPD;
- Print and email a CPD Report of completed activities to the regulator to accompany licence renewal; and
- Apply to the Tasmanian Building and Construction Industry Training Board for training subsidy.
Overall the plumbing industry in Tasmania has embraced the introduction of CPD. While the system is being embedded the regulator has introduced a moratorium (until July 2019) on compliance action against practitioners whom have not undertaken sufficient
This will ensure that there is ample time and opportunity for all plumbing practitioners to become familiar with the system and comply.
Some have voiced reservations about CPD, in terms of time and delivery, but plans have been structured so minimum contact time is required. Development and upskilling does not necessarily mean time in the classroom and can be accomplished in a variety of achievable
and convenient ways.
Master Plumbers Membership and Corporate Relations Manager Christine Watson has experienced CPD being implemented successfully across a variety of industries. With a background in training, she is a strong advocate of the merits of upskilling.
‘CPD ensures you keep up to date and relevant with the skills and knowledge of our profession. This includes regulations and standards changes, new products and techniques, technology and business skills; all of which can affect our day to day working lives if we are not up to date.’
In an ever-changing world, our industries and the work we do within our fields, changes. If we do not keep abreast of change, we can and do fall behind our peers. The flow on effect of undertaking CPD means our customers can be confident knowing we are continuing to improve our knowledge base and skill levels and can advise them appropriately.’
Cooke & Dowsett Director Scott Dowsett also has strong views on the merits of CPD. ‘Gone are the days when you used to be able to start an apprenticeship and develop your experience on site. What I see in the industry now is you have to come to a job with the skills ready to adapt to the fast pace. There’s no time for on the job training, if you haven’t got the skills, you’ll be repositioned to work elsewhere. The challenge lies in how to upskill that plumbing trade person – that’s where CPD comes in.’
‘Cooke & Dowsett are big supporters of CPD. It’s already working well in Tasmania; it has a great framework, which I think the industry should stay on board. Usually, once you become a plumber and you get your qualification, after the four years, there’s nothing else you have to do to keep upskilling. But the industry is changing, materials are changing and we need to move with the times.’
Where to next?
A strong partnership with the Regulator is essential in the introduction of compulsory CPD. Members and non-members need constant engagement in the process. It must be a system that the plumber gets to own and contribute to as a collaborative endeavour. Master Plumbers will be the first to know about developments concerning the Regulations via our bi-monthly e-news bulletin and on plumber.com.au. Members can also contact Technical Liaison Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also look forward to further updates in upcoming editions of Australian Plumbing Industry magazine.