PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Continuing Professional Development: The Role of OCCA
By Graham A. Howarth & Mike Miller

The world is changing very fast and this is especially so in the fields of science, technology and engineering. To remain competent and keep up to date as a professional, individuals have to maintain, develop and increase their knowledge base and skills throughout their working career. Likewise, progressive companies encourage the training and the development of their staff in order to maintain a competitive edge. This training
and development can be achieved through a concept known as Continuing Professional Development (CPD). This has been defined by many organizations, as “The Commitment to Life-long Learning”. We all have to carry on learning just to keep pace in today’s ever changing world.

CPD can be further defined as: “The maintenance, development and widening of theoretical and practical skills to ensure competence and progression throughout the career of an individual for the mutual benefit of the employee and employer”. This may be achieved through a variety of means. For an activity to qualify for CPD, it need not necessarily be technical. As an example, a manager in the paint or ink industry may be
encouraged to take an MBA by their employer. This universally recognized management qualification would then relate to the individuals career as a manager in the printing ink or coatings industries. It would develop the person professionally and would thus be considered CPD. Likewise, health and safety seminars would also qualify.

The aging population of Western Civilization should also be noted. The demographics of these nations is such that a whole wave of “Baby Boomers” will be retiring en masse within ten years. This will result in a significant loss of experience and talent.

Infrastructures need to be developed and implemented now to replace this wealth of knowledge which is about to depart from many Companies. OCCA has made it a priority to position itself as one of the leaders in providing CPD for the coatings and ink industries world-wide.

The training and upgrading of peoples’ skills is a requirement under ISO 9000, QS 9000 & ISO 14000. However, many organizations have, in the past, been reluctant to train and increase the skills of their staff. One such reason for this is that it costs the Company money and the employee then also becomes potentially more valuable to a competitor.

Another reason which is sometimes cited, is that some highly trained staff members have used their increased skills to demand a higher salary and use their training as a springboard for career enhancement by leaving the employ of the company that provided the training. This short-sighted attitude is now changing within many companies. The principle focus of OCCA has always been education, be it basic or continuing, and thus, it is a natural progression for OCCA to become the leading source of continuing professional development in the surface coatings and printing ink industries. As OCCA is a learned society and a not-for-profit Organization, it can often offer courses seminars, symposia, lectures and training at very reasonable cost. Preferential rates would be offered to Members of OCCA. This can be of great benefit to many employers and make it very desirable for Companies to reimburse the OCCA Membership fees of their employees. When more companies come to realize this, they are more likely to support OCCA and, thus, the Organization can potentially increase its Membership base and also enhance the status of its Professional Grade and the designatory letters LTSC, ATSC and FTSC.

OCCA has begun to actively cultivate and forge mutually beneficial relationships with industry manufacturing associations and get their input on what types of seminars and lectures they would like to see developed for their technical, manufacturing, sales or other employees. Some knowledge of various aspects of coatings and inks things can help support staff, as well as manufacturing personnel on the shop floor, sales and marketing personnel along with suppliers to the industry, etc. OCCA will offer a certification service for CPD when a lecture or seminar has suitable technical content.

CPD is currently espoused by all the engineering disciplines, in conjunction with the engineering council which confer the relevant designatory letters, such as C. Eng, F. Eng and Eur Ing on suitably qualified and experienced personnel. To progress to C. Eng, recent graduates have to show evidence that they have carried on training by recording their CPD activities. Eventually, the Professional Development Committee of OCCA may utilize records of verifiable CPD when deciding upon upgrading Members from Associate to Fellow. OCCA will also need evidence from applicants for Professional Membership Grade that they have engaged in CPD. Examples of technically related CPD functions for the Surface Coatings and Printing ink industry could include any event for which Certificates of Attendance can be issued, such as seminars, technical meetings, symposia and conferences. Other examples might include:

  • Training at work – formal, informal, practical, theoretical, Health & Safety etc.
  • Attending technical meetings at section level
  • Participating in works visits
  • Attending courses, seminars, conferences and symposia
  • Preparation of papers and making presentations for seminars and conferences
  • Chairing sessions at seminars and conferences and participating in the organization of
    such events
  • Writing, editing and peer reviewing articles for publication in JOCCA (or other journals)
  • Formal college training, i.e. HNC/Diploma/Bachelors/Masters/PhD/MBA degrees
  • Open University type credits, modules, courses or other distance learning
  • Teaching or training others either formally as a lecturer or in a mentor role.

Now CPD has been agreed to by Council, appropriate information about this undertaking will be made available on the OCCA web site. Periodically, progress updates will be published in Surface Coatings International. All Members will eventually be issued with a booklet to record their CPD activities. This CPD record booklet will be relatively simple and its format will be periodically reviewed and updated, as necessary. The length of time spent on CPD by OCCA Members initially, is recommended to be ten hours per year.
This is a reasonable amount to begin with. This level will also be reviewed periodically as more experience with CPD is gained, especially on the organizing side.

Personnel/training managers, especially those with ISO 9000 Certification, will also be responsible for keeping track of this information so that there is a some authority behind the need for CPD. At OCCA sanctioned meetings / seminars / symposia, attendance will verified by the Session Chair or another designated person through the issuing of Certificates of Attendance. At Section Meetings, this task may fall to the Chairman, Secretary or Treasurer, or another designated person with FTSC status, thus enhancing
the status of Fellowship.

CPD is an exciting development for OCCA and gives the Association a golden opportunity to enhance its standing in the surface coatings industry. CPD is needed for the future survival of OCCA, especially within the UK where declining Membership is a concern of Council. We must continue to be vigilant about our personal, professional and corporate well being. Investing in one’s employees means continued growth and survival
of the fittest. Knowledge is strength and the more collective knowledge a company possesses, the more resourceful, innovative and marketable one’s products will become.

As company profits decline, due to fierce competition in well established markets, new product development is required to create novel, value added products which have the potential for increased profit margins. Reducing raw material costs while improving a product’s performance can mean the difference between a company remaining in a marketplace or their departure from it. A company training individuals can help in this
process. On the flip side, for an individual to remain gainfully employed in a company or an industry, they must keep their own level of competence high, especially in this era of consolidation and merger and the inevitable job loss that results. CPD should then get more co-operation from employers for Members to attend Committee Meetings etc. At the very least, all individual Members of OCCA who take part in CPD, will enhance their career prospects and gain more personal job satisfaction.