The industry view of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has really shifted during the pandemic. Electricians having more free time on their hands, turned to upskilling themselves, but I think this has really highlighted how little training and further learning was being undertaken by the industry pre-COVID. Competence scheme providers have long been advocates of CPD, along with industry groups, such as the E5 group regularly encouraging contractors to ‘level up’ by increasing their knowledge.
As a manufacturer in quite a specialised area, I have always seen CPD as an extremely important area of the industry. With new technology emerging so fast, electricians run the risk of being left behind if regular CPD is not completed.
Working for a company that specialises in surge protection, my career has always has always centred around training and CPD. Before the 18th edition, surge devices were not widely used within most sectors of the industry, so my job entailed lots of educational talks, seminars, CPD events, appearing on industry podcasts and writing magazine articles. In fact, pre pandemic, I was driving up to 1000 miles a week covering the UK and Ireland covering these events! So, in March of last year, when I was grounded, like most people, for the first few days I didn’t know what to do with myself. After discussions with colleagues and friends, I realised that I could carry on delivering quality training on a virtual basis and that led to launching the SPD Training Academy.
I was absolutely overwhelmed with the response and one live session a week quickly became a daily event! I have now trained thousands of electricians, specifiers, electrical consultants, lecturers and apprentices throughout every level of the electrical industry, all for free, without leaving the office. I have had some lovely feedback and my sessions have been met with such gratitude, that I think it has really highlighted to me the lack of free, understandable, CPD being offered throughout the industry.
The pandemic and the following lockdowns gave people more time. It’s crazy now to think of all of the important training and CPD on vital issues, that was missed pre-COVID due to the pressures of working as an electrician within the electrical industry. CPD gets put on the back burner, especially for small contracting companies and sole traders, who have to lose income to complete valuable training. I have seen so many people on social media who have made massive accomplishments in learning and training during lockdown, that during a normal period, would have been impossible.
The availability and suitability of free CPD opportunities is something that as an industry we need to address moving forwards. From my point of view, I feel that manufacturers have an obligation to offer CPD opportunities to anybody that wants to learn. There has been a massive increase in the CPD offered during the pandemic, and I do not want to see this decrease as we move closer to a normal life.
At SPD LTD, I wanted to ensure that people could still take part in training with me, even if they are back at work. So, alongside my live sessions, I have taken the step of breaking down my training webinars in to 10–15 minute modules, which can be watched on demand. This means that contractors will have the option of partaking in a live session with me where that can ask real time questions, or if the times and dates don’t suit, they can log in and do the training session in their own time then contact me directly with any questions.
I would like to see more manufacturers offering CPD as a way to help the industry, rather than a sales exercise. I have given training to contractors and consultants that have openly told me they don’t use my company’s products. What is important to me, is that the education is there to ensure that the correct devices are selected and installed, that people understand the wiring regulations regarding surge devices and understand why they are being installed, not what brand of SPD is being used.
As much as we are all looking forward to being back to normal, I hope that as an industry going forward, we won’t forget the value of CPD and its importance to ensure that we, as an industry, stay relevant and up to date.