Continuing professional development – its role in enhancing competence


Even when fully qualified, an NDT engineer or technician should ensure that his or her knowledge is kept up to date. This may be achieved by attending courses, seminars or conferences.

A carefully thought-out process of continuing professional development (CPD) is the key to success. CPD is the systematic acquisition of knowledge and skills and the development of personal qualities to maintain and enhance professional competence.

CPD has several purposes, which will vary in relation to an individual’s circumstances, needs and career progression. Very often, individuals will carry out CPD to provide assurance of their continuing competence in their current job. At other times, CPD may be undertaken to enable a different role within or outside of their organisation (which may have more management content or may not be purely an engineering role). Equally, CPD may help individuals to follow a longer-term career development plan or enhance their professionalism in a context wider than a specific job role. The focus of an individual’s learning may therefore be on different areas of competence at different times.

For example, according to BS EN ISO 9712:2012, an NDT Level 3 certificate holder seeking recertification should provide evidence of continued qualification confirmed by:
  • satisfying the Level 3 requirements for a written examination; or
  • meeting the requirements for a structured credit system, as given in Annex C of the standard.
In the structured credit system, the Level 3 gains credit for participation, during the five-year period prior to recertification, in various NDT activities. Limits are placed on the maximum number of points that can be claimed each year, and in any activity over the five years, to ensure an even spread.

CPD can take a variety of forms. At its heart is informal learning through the challenges and opportunities of working life and interaction with others (for example colleagues, customers and suppliers), including professionals from other disciplines. However, this may be supplemented by structured activities, such as courses, distance learning programmes, private study, preparation of papers and presentations, mentoring, involvement in professional body activities or relevant voluntary work.

Individuals are best placed to determine their needs and how to meet them. Often, employers or experienced colleagues will play a significant part in this, but individuals should be responsible and proactive in seeking professional development opportunities.

While most engineering professionals undertake CPD, this is often on a casual basis, without any deliberate planning, recording of activities or conscious reflection. Whatever its purpose or nature, learning through CPD should be reflective and should relate to specific objectives, even if these are only to maintain professional engineering competence.

Having a regularly reviewed development plan will facilitate learning, although there will always be a place for unplanned activities. Individuals should record both their CPD activities and what they have learned or achieved through them, relating this to any planned objectives. Doing this will help with the determination of future needs and for plans to be made accordingly, as part of a cyclical process. It will also encourage an outcome-based approach, which is more appropriate to professional learning than relying solely on quantitative measures such as hours or points.

For a CPD plan to work best it should be a joint venture between employee and employer. There must be commitment from both parties and time must be set aside, at least annually, to consider the performance of the employee and the way the role of the employee is likely to develop.

BINDT’s Code of Practice

One of the main functions of a professional body is promoting and supporting the professional development of its members. The British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) has a Code of Practice for CPD:
  • BINDT expects that individual members will undertake CPD to maintain their professional standards.
  • An individual should plan his/her CPD activities. The plan should identify CPD needs and detail the actions required, taking into account:
    –    An audit of experience, skills and knowledge
    –    Career intentions, short and long term
    –    The employer’s business objectives
    –    Relevant personal interests
    –    Extra skills needed.
  • The above should be carried out, where possible, in conjunction with the employer and with the support of the Institute.
  • All CPD activities and achievements should be recorded so that progress towards implementing the development plan and maintaining professional competence can be demonstrated.
  • Given that activities and circumstances change on a regular basis, it is essential that individuals review their CPD requirements regularly.
  • The Institute will provide individuals with support and guidance on CPD activities. In addition, advice will be given to Branches on the suitability of classing Institute Branch activities as CPD.
CPD is not yet a mandatory requirement for Institute or Engineering Council membership. However, this may change and even now there is a belief by some that a live CPD plan should be mandatory to attain or even to maintain grades within professional engineering institutions.

It is important that CPD objectives, once established, are recorded in a manner that encourages a review, in order to ascertain what has been achieved.

The ‘My Career’ resource on the BINDT website will help with this entire process, providing a secure repository for recording documents that support the user’s development, signposting opportunities for the achievement of goals and offering a valuable source of information, learning material and advice. To take advantage of the new resources without charge, PCN certificate holders can become BINDT-Registered Practitioners through the BINDT website.

The UK Engineering Council now requires all of its Licensed Members (including BINDT) to carry out a sample audit of registrants’ CPD records. BINDT has decided to apply this policy to all members, whether registered or not. It is not BINDT’s intention to penalise members who cannot provide evidence of their CPD and there is no stipulation on the type or amount of CPD carried out.

The sample audit will be carried out annually by peer review and feedback may be given if requested. BINDT will be looking to inform and advise its members on how they can get the best out of their existing CPD activities and to signpost opportunities.

If you have not yet submitted your CPD records, you are encouraged to do so as soon as possible in order for BINDT to fulfil its obligation to the Engineering Council.

In addition, BINDT would be most grateful if you would volunteer to take part in a sample audit. This would simply involve an independent review of your CPD records, irrespective of the format submitted. If you are already using the ‘My Career’ tool on the BINDT website, please grant the Institute permission to view your records by ticking the CPD Monitoring Scheme box on the ‘My Career’ page in your ‘MyBINDT’ area of the BINDT website.