With courses just one aspect of continuing professional development, how can you fill the rest of the 40 hours required yearly?

Part of my role as Engineering Practice Manager at Engineering New Zealand is to find out what engineers need and see how we can provide it. Most are aware our professional development team works with industry to offer courses ranging from technical writing to foundation or stormwater design, with many now being delivered online.

While courses are one aspect of continuing professional development (CPD), there are a number of other ways to get quality CPD and fulfil the 40-hour commitment.

What constitutes CPD?

Most of your CPD should be on the job including internal discussions, reading and training – attending formal courses should be the minority. A lot of learning comes from our informal interactions and networks. Our branches and technical groups and societies host events and briefings to help you connect, share and learn and you can allocate CPD hours to these. If you subscribe to technical publications, reading them counts towards CPD, as does reading EG magazine. I can log at least 10 hours by reading my subscriptions to the Timber Design Society, the Structural Engineering Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering and the Concrete NZ Learned Society.

Several senior engineers have said they thought it would be a struggle to get enough CPD hours because they were already at a very high knowledge level. If this applies to you, one option is mentoring – a valuable experience for both parties. Volunteering on a committee or as a Wonder Project Ambassador is also great CPD. Make sure you log these hours.

Read more about our CPD options

Sharing your expertise in house

It can be challenging to share learnings in house – one engineer putting together a half-hour presentation takes time and energy. I’ve been speaking to companies and engineers around the country about different approaches. Many companies use projects they’re currently working on, or have just finished. That’s because many projects contain elements that other engineers will find interesting. Having five people each do a two-minute presentation on their current work every week with a Q&A will give you at least half an hour of quality CPD. It also allows engineers to get used to standing up and doing short presentations or conducting these online.

Keeping track of your CPD

Since Engineering New Zealand introduced the CPD commitment in 2017, we’ve simply asked members to declare they’ve completed the required number of hours. You need to keep track of your CPD and we encourage you to log your hours in the members’ area of our website.

Other professions in New Zealand, including lawyers, company directors and teachers, have their CPD audited. Overseas, the Institute of Structural Engineers asks for your CPD to be uploaded each year and undertakes random audits, and that’s something we’re planning to phase in.

I’ve found the best way to make sure my hours get logged is a calendar reminder each Friday.

Keeping us sharp

New Zealand engineers have always had a good reputation overseas for our ability to look at problems from different perspectives and problem solve creatively. There’s a feeling among some senior engineers we’re in danger of collectively losing some sharpness. Key skills include the ability of engineers to do “back of the napkin” calculations to get an idea of what we’re designing. Together we need to ensure we develop and maintain a questioning mind, and retain an idea of how our disciplines work from first principles.

We are looking to set up a resource for Engineering New Zealand members to access, to supplement any internal CPD you already have underway and cover all the disciplines that we represent.

The idea is currently at the concept stage and we’re sharing thoughts and getting feedback. One idea is simply to go and find something that is failing, analyse why and discuss what you would do differently. The item or system could be anything, from the straightforward to the complex. You would back up your ideas with hand calculations and do a two-minute presentation.

Another idea is having modules available, linked to external resources such as technical papers and videos. Your company would start from module one and work through, saving the time you’d usually spend developing CPD internally.

Your feedback on this concept is welcome, along with any topic suggestions. Email me at martin.pratchett@engineeringnz.org

This article was originally published in the June 2020 edition of EG magazine.