Continuing professional development opportunities in construction: The case for CPD

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©Can Stock Photo/Keznon
©Can Stock Photo/Keznon

By Ralph Lembcke, P.GSC.

Special to Ontario Construction News

Persons wishing to enter the construction industry have myriad educational opportunities. From college level technical programs in civil, construction and architectural technology to project management programs to university education in engineering or architecture – the options are endless. But what about those already employed in a construction career looking to advance or simply keep up with changes in the industry? What are the options and why is it important?

No one knows everything. No industry is static. These two truths underline the importance of continued professional development. These days it seems that rapidly evolving electronic technologies are driving the need for continuous professional development, but tech isn’t the only thing driving this need. Changes in legislation, legal precedents, construction technologies and construction contracts also dictate the necessity for continuous education.

Additional factors that play into the equation are personnel attrition, promotion and career advancement. As those with years of experience move toward retirement, it is important that succession plans create a talented pool of recruits ready to be promoted once those positions become vacant.

As field personnel grow older and more experienced, office positions may become appealing options especially from a physical perspective. Younger persons in entry level positions will want to seek better paying and more interesting jobs.

From a corporate perspective, offering employees Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and training is also good business. Statistics show that companies which invest in employee development enjoy better employee relations, are more productive, have better client relations and are more profitable. According to an article in Forbes Magazine entitled Making Strategic Investments In Employee Development Is Crucial For Success by William Craig:

“When you strategically invest in employees, you attract and keep all the best candidates, and you also build a strong work culture unafraid of innovation, change, failure and success.”  

 For those employers worried about wasting time and money training potentially transient employees, Henry Ford mused:

The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.

Options for CPD

As noted earlier, training options for those seeking a construction career who can afford both the time and the money to attend a full-time educational institution are ubiquitous. But what are the options for those who have full-time career commitments and how do they access those options?

Employees who are lucky enough to have a progressive employer committed to training and professional development opportunities, access is often gained directly through the employer as courses are promoted and made available to them – often free of charge. Larger construction companies have provided structured in-house training or have partnered with universities and colleges to provide in-house worker training. Ellis-Don is one example. A construction company does not, however, have to be large to offer its employees in-house training. By working with accredited trainers and educators even small companies can put together in-house educational opportunities.

CPD is also an area in which construction associations excel. Spearheaded by the Canadian Construction Association, the Gold Seal certification program provides structured curriculum and recognition for construction education gained through both formal education and accredited courses (both live and on-line). The Toronto Construction Association also promotes its TCIC – The Construction Institute of Canada – which offers many construction related courses.

Colleges still play a role in offering educational opportunities for CPD. Most colleges will allow individuals to register for just one course, or even to monitor a course provided there is physical room on the roster. The caveat here is that the course time usually coincides with day-school programming, so timing is non-negotiable. The new on-line reality may temper this somewhat as colleges offer more programs on-line.

One of the best options for those seeking PD is local construction associations. Local construction associations (LCAs) are well poised to offer professional development and construction related educational opportunities as membership benefits. Most LCAs take education very seriously and promote a variety of seminars, workshops and courses.

The New CDECC

The Construction and Design Educators Council of Canada “is dedicated to becoming the indispensable leader in engaging practicing educators, mentors, facilitators and education providers of construction and design sector professional development/workforce development in Canada.”

Practicing members are professional industry educators who offer educational opportunities to the industry through construction associations and related institutes. All come from proven industry backgrounds in construction management, administration and education. The CDECC is an ideal source for those seeking quality educators to provide employee assessments, in-house training or training thorough the LCAs.

ralph lembcke
Ralph Lembcke

Ralph Lembcke, P.GSC has been a professor at the Donald j. Smith School of Building Technology at Fanshawe College for over 30 years. He facilitates professional development through several LCAs and can be reached at rlembckeassociates@gmail.com for more information on his accredited courses and workshops. He is also a member of the CDECC.

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