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CPD and the credit crunch

1 Dec 08

In uncertain times, forward-thinking firms are harnessing CPD to buck the economic trend

by Angela Clark

Welcome to the CPD section of CA Magazine, designed to inform and inspire you as you embark on your journey towards continual professional development.

CPD has become a top priority at the Institute, and over the coming weeks and months the CPD department’s central focus will be to raise awareness of related issues.

We are always on hand to deal with your queries and are happy to field your questions and hear your feedback and suggestions.

There are some real risks for accountants as the global economic crisis deepens. It is more important than ever for accountants to re-instill faith in their profession – a priority highlighted by ICAS chief executive Anton Colella in a recent open letter to all CAs. He says: “…By reinforcing our obligation to act with ethics and integrity in all of our business dealings, our professional community can make a significant difference in helping to rebuild confidence.”

More companies than ever are using CPD to prepare themselves for the challenges that lie ahead.

CPD is a revolution in learning and knowledge acquisition. Its central focus is to raise professional standards, widen the skills base of participants and promote lifelong improvement and learning. When re-instilling confidence in the financial services sector is a paramount consideration, CPD ensures CAs’ skills remain razor sharp and that members are informed of all the latest trends, legislation and changes within the industry.

ICAS has stated that its CA Lifelong Learning Scheme will become a pillar of future policy, forming the centrepiece of recent measures to raise standards within the Institute, increase consumer confidence and hone the skills of CAs to make them more competitive in an increasingly “dog eat dog” world.

The scheme is surprisingly simple. All learning is completely output-based – there are no predefined quotas to fill or targets to meet. Instead, CAs are encouraged to assess what learning would most benefit them as individuals and invited to assess how successful that learning was. The variety of learning methods open is vast. Participation at conferences, attendance at training courses and even reading trade magazines such as

CA Magazine all count as valid and viable CPD resources – the key consideration is whether the learning embarked on helped to meet your individual goals and aspirations.

ICAS is enthusiastic about the scheme, a mandatory requirement to all members, and quick to stress the numerous benefits CPD can bring to the individual participant, organisations and society as a whole.

The individual has much to gain. CPD is an excellent way of diversifying one’s skills and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to major changes that periodically affect the accountancy profession.

In a fast-moving industry, participants become more flexible and adaptable as they are exposed to new approaches and modern thinking. Individuals can often make themselves more attractive to employers as they develop a portfolio of skills relevant to the demands of the time.

CPD also challenges participants to assess their career, their strengths and weaknesses and areas of possible improvement. Such honest self-reflection can only be a good thing, and many who take part in CPD cite the self-appraisal procedure as the most rewarding element.

The opportunity to network and interact with others in the industry is another major advantage, and significant business relationships are often forged during the coffee breaks of a conference or seminar.

Recruitment and retention is one area where the benefits of CPD present themselves to the organisations involved. Firms are wise to the fact that it no longer pays to recruit members of staff with specialist skills when the talent already in your organisation can be tapped. “Up-skilling” is a fantastic way to deepen an employee’s pool of knowledge and reward and reinvigorate deserving staff. Studies corroborate that employees feel more motivated in their jobs and more valued by employers when CPD is available, so morale is boosted considerably – an important consideration when it

is threatened and perceived job security is low.

Organisations become more agile and flexible – better prepared to adapt to the issues of the day in an ever-changing economic landscape.

As for the benefits to society, we only need to look to the premise of this report to highlight the significant good brought about by an adherence to the ICAS CPD scheme.

Commentators are quick to point out that continually lamenting the economic downturn will only exacerbate the problems. Only when confidence in our financial markets, banks, regulators and financial services returns will we break out of the financial unrest; adherence to the principles of CPD aptly demonstrates ICAS’s commitment to innovative and inspired solutions to the challenges we face – serious measures for serious times that go a long way to prove that CAs are doing everything they can to beat the crisis and instill confidence in a venerable profession.

ANGELA CLARK is assistant director, members in business and CPD.

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