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How-To: Design CPD For Engineers

Of the 4 main types of engineering (chemical, mechanical, civil, and electrical), there are many CPD activities that are relevant to these disciplines.


Low-angle view of some chemical engineers in a laboratory wearing lab coats

Since January 2017, all Professional Engineering Institutions have introduced a Policy of randomly reviewing Professionally Active Registrants’ CPD Returns. CPD outcomes are evidently increasing in importance for engineering institutions.


We’ve collected insights from different Engineering Institutions to put together a list of considerations that CPD professionals in the construction industry need to focus on. Do you design engineering CPD courses, either on behalf of a professional membership organisation or a company? If so, we recommend that you read the below article to help you design this future engineering CPD.


A civil engineer on some scaffolding at a construction site

Outcomes-Focused CPD For Engineers


We stated above that CPD outcomes are being focused on by Professional Engineering Institutions. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) defines CPD as a personal endeavour that’s primarily about an engineer’s ambitions and development. For them, engineering CPD courses should be unique to every engineer’s role, career stage and goals. Therefore, IMechE approach CPD by focusing on individual learning outcomes. They look at what each engineer gained through activities and experience. This is preferred instead of simply recording the time engineers spend on different CPD activities and evaluating from there. It is a quality over quantity approach that focuses on outputs, not inputs.


Furthermore, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) state that development gained from CPD should be relevant. This supports the attitude that CPD for engineers should be about effective outcomes.


We agree that CPD is generally more effective when it’s not treated as a box-ticking exercise. We’ve already stated as much in a previous article. This is especially important in a discipline like engineering (and not just mechanical engineering, but the other types of engineering too). This is because it is primarily a practical discipline which doesn’t just require theory knowledge. Therefore, we see that the future of CPD for engineers will continue to steer towards allowing engineers to reflect on their learning and development and how it affects their actual work and professional goals. It shouldn’t just make engineers carry out CPD exercises for the sake of fulfilling a quota.

A woman stands next to a whiteboard at an engineering CPD session

Which Type of CPD is More Effective?


In previous articles, we’ve outlined the differences between the two main types of CPD: formal and informal.


If you want to utilise a form of CPD that’s the easiest to regulate and identify, engineering institutions generally recommend formal CPD. They say that it’s also seen as the most valuable form as CPD. This includes formal qualifications, conference attendance, and the undertaking of training courses.


However, we don’t advise completely overlooking informal CPD.


Going back to the IMechE, they state that research shows that there seems to be a 70:20:10 model. In this model, only 10% of learning comes from formal training. 20% comes from cooperative activities like coaching and collaborating with colleagues and giving/receiving feedback. 70% of learning tends to come from experience, experiment and reflection. This may include challenging tasks or problem-solving that are done in an engineer’s day-to-day work.


Research such as this is consistently evaluating what forms of CPD work best for engineers. Thanks to this, we see more on-the-job and informal training coming to the forefront for engineers in the future. This will allow engineers to benefit from the real-world experience that already helps them the most. It will also prevent informal CPD from continuing to be overlooked.

Therefore, if you organise CPD for engineers, we recommend providing collaborative on-the job opportunities for them to work on new projects with others, who they may be coaching or working with.

A chemical engineer looks into a microscope as part of a CPD project

Engineering CPD Activities


In terms of these collaborative opportunities, these could include:


• Researching for and writing technical papers – to increase knowledge and understanding of engineering

• Undertaking team placements at work in a new technical area – to broaden skillset

• Chairing a Committee for their engineering institution

• Leading technical projects

• Being in charge of a budget

• Being a mentor for a team at work

Volunteering for Professional Review Interviews

• Supporting events and schemes held by your organisation

A female chemical engineer stands in a lab with her arms folded, smiling at the camera

Engineering CPD That Involves Women


Whichever form your engineering CPD course comes in, it should be accessible and welcoming for everyone. That idea is coming to the forefront more and more today.


In June 2021, Engineering UK reported that women make up 14.5% of all engineers, and that this is a 25.7% increase in women in engineering occupations since 2016 (during which, only 4.6% of the overall workforce were women).


As the engineering landscape achieves more of a gender balance, logically so should its CPD. If you’re organising lectures or conferences for engineers, it should be designed to encourage participation from women – find out how here. If you’re organising a technical project for your people to work together to complete, ensure that teams have a diverse balance of races, genders, etc.


An audience sat at an engineering CPD lecture

How Frequent Should Engineering CPD Be?


Dependent on which membership organisation your people are from, they may require your people to undertake different amounts of CPD.


The ICE don’t set a minimum number of annual hours. They instead state that members should complete however much is necessary depending on their registration grade, experience, roles, responsibilities, and future career plans.


However, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) recommend at least 30 hours of engineering CPD a year, and the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) have a mandatory requirement of 35 hours a year.


Therefore, we recommend that around 30 hours a year should be made available for engineers.

Three engineers work on a machine together at a laptop

Conclusion


If you’re a CPD provider for engineers, the key is to remember how practical and outcomes-focused their career is. Furthermore, consider the increasing diversity of the field.

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