We congratulate the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) on the publication of their recent paper Understanding the Value of Professionals and Professional Bodies. This is a timely and valuable piece of work that addresses both the perceptions of MPs and of the general public concerning their awareness and perception of the value of professional bodies.
While the report particularly focuses on professional bodies in construction, the two surveys CIOB commissioned also address views on professional bodies in general.
In a survey of 2012 British adults, the 3 statements out of 11 most commonly agreed with about professional bodies were:
- Professional qualifications help people to earn more
- Professional qualifications raise standards
- I would trust a professional more if I knew that they were a member of a professional body
The really fascinating conclusion from both the survey of British adults and that of 152 MPs is that ‘familiarity leads to favourability’.
Of those who know about professional bodies, 76% agreed that if a professional belonged to a professional body they would trust them more, compared to 46% of those who had never heard of professional bodies. Similarly, MPs more familiar with chartered professional bodies were more favourable in their judgements of them as improving industry performance and productivity, raising standards of competency and knowledge and providing an objective industry voice that can be trusted by policy makers.
Clearly this indicates a challenge for professional bodies to raise their profile both among MPs and the general public. This is reinforced by another key finding: those aged 18-24 were less likely to have heard of professional bodies (70%) compared with those aged 65+ (83%). Under half of those 18-24 year olds agreed that they would trust a professional more if they belonged to a professional body compared with three quarters of those aged 65+.
There are lessons here for all professional bodies. The report calls for bodies to become more proactive in the field of policy making compared with their responsive stance in the past, which may pose a problem. It’s not just that many have been reticent in taking proactive stances to policy making but rather that, other than a few very large and well-established professional bodies, they have found it difficult to get their messages across to policy makers and the general media.
One important way of improving the likelihood of any professional body being heard and influencing policy would be to join together with others on common ground initiatives. The CIOB report points to the development of new technology in the construction field that is likely to encourage co-operation among professional bodies.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been spreading rapidly. This encourages shared information about a facility based on a digital representation of its physical and functional characteristics. With this important source of technical support virtual information can be transferred from architects, surveyors, civil services engineers and more to contractors and subcontractors involved in the execution of plans and, ultimately, to the owner of the facilities. There will, then, be more opportunities for interdisciplinary working. Ultimately this will encourage greater co-operation among professional bodies.
The report recommends early steps in this direction with a more standardised approach to ethics and the public interest through interdisciplinary education, as well as greater knowledge sharing and resource pooling among construction professional bodies.
We at PARN will continue to encourage communication and information sharing among professional bodies across all industry sectors. We will be discussing ways of cooperating at our networking events and in our research, which provides benchmarking beyond traditional boundaries between professional bodies.
One important aspect of the potential value of professions and professional bodies to society concerns social mobility. The CIOB report notes that the role professional bodies play within social mobility is complex: on one hand they inhibit access into professions among the unqualified, but on the other they promote education, career choices and widen membership routes into professions. At PARN we have just produced a report on Professional Bodies & Apprenticeships supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, where we explore how professional bodies are currently involved in setting and developing apprenticeship standards.
Overall, understanding the value of professional bodies is, as noted in this report, complicated and difficult to pin down. The value should be assessed in broader terms than simply the financial value to an individual of gaining professional qualifications. One way of approaching this subject is to consider the contribution of professional bodies to raising trust in society. This subject is discussed in our white paper referred to in the CIOB report, The Professional Body Sector contribution to Social Infrastructure.
Do you feel professional bodies are valued in society, or does more need to be done to raise the status of the sector? Should professional bodies be working together across disciplines to have greater impact? Let us know your thoughts!
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