Professionals learning for life

A number of sectors are increasing the requirements for professional development. Photo / Getty Images
A number of sectors are increasing the requirements for professional development. Photo / Getty Images

It's back to school time for employees. Continuing professional development is a must for anyone who wants to get ahead in a world where everything from plumbing to brain surgery is changing at a pace.

At the same time as the need for professional development is increasing, employer funded professional development is being cut due to financial strains, says Brenda Tweedy the research and education manager at Human Resources Institute of New Zealand (HRINZ). The irony of that is that it is a short sighted decision.

"It is really to their financial detriment. It means that a lot of (employees) are struggling in their roles," says Tweedy.

"What we want to see is employers providing opportunities for people to develop their skills as they go through their career's journey."

Some employers have no choice but to provide professional development for staff because of regulations in their industries mean that the employees must be undertaking verifiable learning.

Tweedy expects to see prosecutions and employers being fined by WorkSafe New Zealand, which comes into being in December, for not providing adequate health and safety training. WorkSafe NZ will be established in December of this year.

A number of professions are upping their requirements for professional development. HRINZ itself is bringing in a programme of continuing professional development for its members and is building a website for the purpose.

From October 1 , lawyers will begin transitioning into a new tougher continuing professional development scheme. Under the new rules from the New Zealand Law Society all New Zealand lawyers must complete a minimum level of 10 hours continuing professional development (CPD) each year.

Most lawyers already undertake CPD, says Annette Black, director of education at the Law Society. The new initiative will catch those that aren't.

Black and her colleagues studied overseas law societies programmes and believe that their system of learner centred CPD is ground breaking because it is non-prescriptive. It reflects the fact that not all lawyer's practice is the same and that individuals will have different needs.

One profession, which is being quite literally turned on its head by technological change, is teaching. Technologically advanced schools are moving to a model where learners lead the enquiries and teachers provide support and guidance.

Embracing the change and upskilling helped teacher Susan Lee of Te Kura o Kutarere school step up to principal.

"We were able to purchase $35,000 of IT gear in 2011 and that is when the genie began," says Lee. Her school found itself with state-of-the-art equipment including iPads, notebooks, Mobil Learners (interactive whiteboards), electronic teaching stations etcetera, but no staff who knew how to use them.

Rather than taking courses Lee has learned alongside the year one to eight students from a series of outside facilitators ranging from eLearning facilitators such as CORE Education. Lee observed how the children's learning changed as they grasped the power of the technology and learned how to support them in that journey.

CORE Education's Liz Stevenson says that modern professional development for teachers is very different from the old advisor style where someone told you want to do and how to do it.

"This would have happened as facilitators modelled working with students and technologies. Susan was supported to investigate how digital technologies could help improve literacy in the school." It can also be done via video link," says Stevenson.

"This method of PLD is like supporting teachers to do a mini research project - kind of at the level of a 100 hour Uni research project," says Stevenson. "Small time research but robust in methodology and extremely useful in lifting teachers' independence from 'tell me what to do and I'll do it' to 'what is working well for students and so therefore what should we put more energy into doing - and what should we stop doing'."

Employees and self-employed professionals also have a responsibility to themselves to own their own professional development and up skill. It is not all the employer's responsibility.

It the 21st century it's not difficult to find an online course that will help preserve existing skills, or give the employee a leg up to the next level on the career ladder. Foreign universities, including many well-known institutions, offer online courses in virtually every subject imaginable.

Here in New Zealand the Open Polytechnic and other tertiary providers offer online learning in subjects as diverse as construction, agribusiness management, and real estate.

A new development in distance education that is becoming hugely popular with learners is MOOCs (massive open online courses). These are free online courses offered by international universities where students log into lectures and often mark each other's work. The range of courses available is enormous. Courses can be found at Mooc-list.com.

This is just one of many technological changes that are affecting how professional development is delivered. Learning management systems that deliver, track and manage training and education are becoming increasingly common.

- NZ Herald

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