Every year, we publish our Professional Body Sector Review, aiming to define the sector in its own right. We hear from leading professional bodies taking part in pioneering initiatives and from sector specialists, including Hilary Lindsay, lecturer and researcher at The Open University. In her contribution to the 2015 Review, she examines career adaptability and how professional bodies are treating learning in the workplace.
As the shape of careers continues to change, with individuals potentially working for longer and in different ways, do professional bodies need to look again at the learning their members need?
In my recent independent research with members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), I found that, even within an output-based CPD scheme, members still associated CPD with technical updates and attending courses. However, when they were asked which learning activities they considered the most relevant, doing your job on a regular basis rose to second place, and the clear leader was accessing the Internet for information. Based on these findings, professional bodies need to ensure that their CPD policies and rhetoric refer to learning at work. They also need to embrace and promote learning activities that use new technology.
When I later talked to ICAEW members about their learning experiences across their careers a second, less visible element of learning emerged. An essential part of lifelong learning will always involve professional competence: individuals need to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date. One male interviewee who had recently moved into a heavily regulated part of the not-for-profit sector volunteered that he had “gone on quite a few training courses and spent a lot of time in briefings from lots of different professional advisers”.
But I also found a second, more personal element of learning. The learning stories of my interviewees covered issues such as personal values and preferences, work-life balance, coping with change and developing career prospects. In my model of learning I call this aspect of learning ‘career adaptability’. To make the most of opportunities that present themselves during their careers, professionals need self-belief and a positive attitude. They must also be willing to experiment, to explore and to engage with others. These five attributes, which together make up career adaptability, will give professionals an X-factor, not only across their careers but also in every role they undertake.
To have as effective a relationship with their members as possible, professional bodies need to help their members engage with this wider aspect of lifelong learning.
PARN published Hilary Lindsay’s book Adaptability: The Secret to Lifelong Learning in 2014. Hilary is an award-winning lecturer and researcher with The Open University. She is currently President of ICAEW. Hilary’s research was motivated by her desire to encourage members of her profession to share and learn from each other’s learning experiences.