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Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in Construction


The following dissertation focuses on a personal development technique called Continuing Professional Development (CPD). With the world of construction constantly changing, professionals in the industry need to keep up to speed with the changing elements of the industry nationally and internationally.

This dissertation assesses the CPD process that the industry’s institutions provide for members and assesses how CPD is carried out. It also looks at how beneficial CPD is to the professionals who participate and the company they work for.

By the end of this dissertation the role of these institutions should be easily identifiable in professional development and how participation can give working professionals a competitive edge on-site and help them progress in their careers both in and outside their existing company.

This dissertation also encapsulates the opinions of some of the professional members of the industry involved in CPD. It will assess how CPD has influenced them in their career and will make recommendations on how to refine the process.


This chapter explains the core elements of the study which includes a definition, hypothesis, aims and objectives, parameters of study and research methodology.

Definition of Topic

The definition of CPD in general is continual learning, regardless of age or seniority, which focuses on professional competency in a professional role. Its aim is to improve personal performance and enhance career progression.

Over recent years the benefits of structured CPD have been identified within the construction industry. To become a chartered professional under a construction based institution(e.g. the Chartered Institute of Building(CIOB)) professionals must show they have been involved in a structured CPD process. Records must be maintained to show this before professionals may transgress.

With the current economic climate, construction professionals need to keep their knowledge and skills to the optimum to ensure progression within their company and give them an advantage when looking for work elsewhere. CPD not only applies to the working professional but also to those unemployed who want to increase their chances when opportunities occur.


CPD improves the performance and enhances the career progression of a professional in the construction industry.

Aim of Dissertation

The aim of this dissertation is to produce a piece of work that explains the process of CPD in relation to the construction industry. The dissertation will also assess the advantages of CPD; identify why it is important and how it can be improved.


The objectives of this dissertation are to:

  • Explain what CPD is in general and in a construction context.
  • Identify which construction related professional institutes provide a structured CPD system for their members.
  • Assess CPD within these institutes; compare advantages or disadvantages of each and recommend measures to improve their CPD system’s effectiveness.
  • Establish how important CPD is to each participant’s professional performance, development and career progression.
  • Establish how important effective CPD is to a professional’s performance and the company that employ them.
  • Gather together the opinion of working professional in the construction industry on the benefits of CPD.

Parameter of Study

This study contains a general overview of CPD in terms of professionalism as a whole in any career path. It then focuses on CPD specifically in the construction industry and gives an in depth analysis of the role of professional institutes and its members who participate. It also identifies how important CPD is the construction industry today, both to the individual themselves and the company that employ them.

Research Methodology

There were a number of different methods of research used to complete this study including both primary and secondary research which are detailed below.

Secondary Research:


Various books were sourced both in the GMIT library and the online library of the CIOB. These books and extracts from books were used as a reference and for background information and reading. Some books covered CPD overall and others covered CPD specifically in the construction industry.

Electronic Journals

Official Reports & Surveys

Many of the reports and surveys read were carried out within the last decade in regard to the construction industry as well as CPD in other professions across the UK and in Ireland. These gave a good insight into CPD in other professions, what elements of CPD are important and in what direction CPD in construction is heading.


There was a mass of information available on the internet which contained both up-to-date and older material. Not all sources found were reliable, but pockets of valid information was uncovered throughout my research on the internet. Much background information was found which was helpful in getting different party’s opinions on CPD and how it should be carried out.

Many official websites were also useful in getting information on how CPD is provided to individuals by professional bodies both in construction and outside too. A lot of information was gathered through these sites to establish how CPD was made available to construction professionals.

Primary Research:

The four leading professional bodies in construction were chosen as the basis of my primary study. These include the Chartered Institute of Building(CIOB), the Society of Chartered Surveyors(SCS), Engineers Ireland(IEI) and the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland(RIAI). All four institutes have many members from various construction backgrounds and play a major role in the development of these professionals through CPD.

Information on their CPD policy and practice was gathered and semi-structured interviews were then carried out with the relevant staff members of each institute to consolidate the information collected. Interviews were also carried out with members of the different institutes to get the receiver’s point of view.

Format of Study

This thesis will be carried out using the following chapter:

Introduction to CPD

In Chapter 2 CPD will be looked at in relation to the entire working world. CPD can be applied to any profession but also has similarities to the personal development of an individual. With the global economy rapidly evolving, new patterns of work and learning have emerged worldwide. Massive growth in sectors like information technology(IT) means that people working in that sector need to keep up with the changes or they will be left behind.

The main purpose of continuing development personally is to maximise enjoyment of work and life. Therefore we need to be continually responding to the changing world around us.

“Are you living to work or working to live?”(Megginson & Whitaker, 2007)

Continuing Professional Development(CPD) is based around the whole concept self-motivation and self management. It all depends on how motivated the participant is to learn about the career they are undertaking and can apply to any professional in the working world. It is particularly relevant to professions such as teaching, nursing and accountancy where ongoing learning is crucial.(Megginson & Whitaker 2007)

“The most precious asset any professional controls is knowledge of the discipline and the skill to apply it effectively. Over the long run it is more important to maintain the value of this asset than the office, the furniture, the computer hardware, or even the bank account.”( – Accessed 19/02/2010)

History of CPD

CPD has been around in various different forms for a long time. It is only over the past 25 years that CPD has been formalised and endorsed by professional membership bodies. Its history is as follows:

  • 1850: Professionals met up in coffee houses to discuss practice and share notes
  • 1984: Chartered Institute of Personal Development(CIPD) created a policy statement on CPD
  • 1986: Construction Industry Council(CIC) defined CPD
  • 1990: UK Inter-Professional Group(UKIPG 1977) CPD Forum set-up
  • 1995: CPD becomes a requirement for all practicing CIPD Members
  • 1999: CIC definition of CPD most commonly cited definition
  • 2000: Institute of Professional Development(IPD) was granted a Royal Charter
  • 2009: Aspirations to move from input to output and outcome-driven CPD schemes(Institute of Continuing Professional Development(ICPD)

What is CPD?

CPD is a process completed by the majority of professionals in the working world, either consciously or unconsciously. Its main purpose is to implement a system of continued learning and development separate to what they would learn through their daily work. Two definitions of CPD are as follows:

“Continuing Professional Development(CPD) is the process by which individuals take control of their own learning and development, by engaging in an on-going process of reflection and action.”(Megginson, Whitaker, 2007)

“The systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills and the development of personal qualities necessary for execution of professional and technical duties throughout the individual’s working life.”(Construction Industry Council, UK, 1986)

CPD has many functions in the role of a professional. It ensures the professional maintains a high level of competence in their field and has the up-to-date skills and knowledge to provide a competent service to their client or employer. CPD also has a knock-on effect which encourages further development in many areas.

This process empowers the individual to achieve their goals and encourages them to look at their career progression from a wider perspective. Self-motivation is a key element in this process, where the individual is the main driving force behind this new learning. It is their own responsibility to develop themselves and is not up their manager or employer. If the individual has no desire to learn CPD is a pointless process.

Feedback from a CPD survey in 2008 indicates that members see two key benefits in undertaking CPD: It helps them maintain their knowledge and skills, and maintain professional and ethical standards.(PARN CPD survey 2008)

Need for CPD

CPD has evolved from the individual’s thinking that career progression not only relates to secure job within an organisation but by the skills, knowledge and experiences obtained by the individual. CPD is also needed to ensure working professionals are providing an adequate service to their clients and employers. Services such as advice must be given so that changes to the environment associated with the decision are taken into account. This ensures the client gets the best service available for the fee paid.

Soon to be professionals also need to maintain an adequate amount of CPD to progress to the next stage towards becoming chartered in most organisations. This goes a long way to fulfilling their need towards becoming a competent professional.

Core Concepts of CPD

How is CPD different to other types of training and development?

  • The learner is in control-the whole CPD process is self-driven and managed where learning outcomes are directly proportionate to the time and effort participant puts into the process. They must be self- motivated, which means the participant must want to continue learning to be successful no matter what position or profession.
  • It can apply to most aspects of life-CPD can apply to life outside work as well. For example, personal development can be achieved through implementing some of the knowledge or skills to improve family communications etc.
  • There is a regular plan, do and evaluate process involved, which sets achievable goals and reflects on work put in which can spurs on further development.
  • CPD can be beneficial without the support of others in their working environment. All professionals can complete CPD regardless of working situation, whether they work for a company or are self-employed and deal directly with their own clients. Of course support from employer would be more beneficial but it is not essential as interaction is mostly between the professional body and individual. Although some employers incorporate CPD into the training and development programmes of all employees.

Methods of Learning through CPD

CPD revolves around the whole learning process and the methods with which learning is provided is a very important part of the process. These methods ensure professionals can improve their skills and knowledge and gain relevant experience.

Formal, non-formal and informal methods of learning include any process relevant to a profession that improves skills, knowledge and the experiences of a professional. CPD activities can include in-house training, open learning, conferences, seminars, workshops, structured reading, self-study, presentations and being a coach or mentor.

Structured & Unstructured CPD:

All CPD comes under the heading of structured or unstructured CPD. Structured CPD is where the learning outcomes are identified in advance of learning. This CPD does not have to be provided or accredited by the participant’s institution or professional body. Structured CPD covers any educational event or programme run by a recognised educational or professional institution. Structured CPD must also be accompanied by attendance records or a certificate to prove process has been successfully completed.

Unstructured CPD is an unplanned CPD activity that can be completed at any time or anywhere at the participant’s discretion. Activities that qualify as unstructured CPD include personal study or development, peer review and other activities such as case studies that are not part of other course requirements. Reflection on both of these CPD learning methods is crucial before CPD can be recorded.

CPD methods of learning do not necessarily need to be provided by a professional body. They can be provided by an employer or other organisation which then can be accredited by the body as a worthwhile process.

Constant reading of up to date reports, journals, magazines, newspapers and reviews relevant to a specific profession is probably the most common method. Reading is a very easy way of learning if the reader has an interest in the subject and puts the effort in to focus and concentrate on what they are reading.

It is a very efficient method as it can be resumed over the space of a few minutes and it does not entail the use of another individual’s time. Time management is a massive element in any professional’s working life where they are always working to tight schedule. This means they may only have a few minutes a day to set aside for CPD of which reading is the perfect filler.

Conferences and the gathering of professionals at CPD events are a fixed way of delivering CPD to practicing professionals. These may take place every few months and give attendees a chance to catch up with fellow professionals and discuss relevant issues. They may exchange ideas or opinions and can get in touch with useful contacts which may be important in the future.

Seminars and lectures are also common where a leader of a profession may speak or organise a talk on issues that are changing the roles and lives of a professional or the industry they work in. Experts in the field may be asked to explain some new issue and give an opinion on what should be done. It is very important for professional bodies to hold these gatherings as it can influence and guide the way in which professionals across the world carry out there work.

With resources on the internet constantly being upgraded it has now become very beneficial to CPD. Information is now much more accessible to the professional in their workplace, this method of learning is commonly known as e-learning. Readable information does not necessarily need to be sent to the professional’s workplace anymore as these sources are now regularly being uploaded on professional body websites which are available 24 hours a day. This means waiting times are virtually eliminated as most magazines, reports and other such information are now available on the internet.

Videos of seminars, conferences and podcasts can now be easily accessed which means information can be dispersed quickly and accurately straight to the professionals computer. This is a major time saving method as travelling times are eliminated and a much wider audience can be reached at one time. Assessments can also be uploaded onto a professional body’s website immediately after learning has taken place or can be submitted by email at any time. Records are much more easily kept when communicating through the internet; most websites make records accessible to professional membership which makes reflection a lot easier too.

Professionals can be trained through workplace training which trains a small group of professionals within a company(s) on a specific topic. This method encourages participants to get more involved and can increase their understanding of the topic.

A full list of CPD activities may include:

  • Open distance learning(the internet, video packages, slide/tape packages, correspondence courses)
  • Private study including systematic study of appropriate literature or research, or even learning a relevant language
  • Technical and professional conferences, lectures, seminars, workshops, study tours, technical visits and short courses
  • Courses leading to professional qualification or academic awards
  • Writing articles for publication
  • Teaching(for those not at teaching posts)
  • Practice(for those in teaching posts)
  • Preparing papers and contributing to technical meetings and study groups
  • Examining, tutoring or mentoring( 26/02/2010)

Professional Bodies

CPD is crucial to the success of any working professional. One crucial factor that determines the effectiveness of CPD to a professional is the professional body that provides the platform for this new learning. The majority of professional bodies, such as the CIOB, are non-profit making organisations that are established to support their professional members.

They work to try and satisfy the needs of a specific group of people who work in the same field. Professional bodies simply started out as a group of professionals who got together to discuss relevant issues in their field and share ideas. There are hundreds of these bodies and institutes set up all over the world dealing in a multitude of different professions and even ordinary jobs, from secretaries to project managers.

Professional organisations aim to assist and direct their members on the road to success. This is achieved by providing the tools to sharpen the professional’s skills and knowledge. Being a member means you have unlimited access to all the educational resources and services needed to continue your professional development. They provide members with information, training, education, tips, advice and strategies to assist them in reaching the height of their professional career.

It gives many opportunities to mingle with fellow professionals and employers in their specific field which could be of benefit when seeking career opportunities. This is one major reason why professionals join these organisations, to be recognised by the body and their codes of practice. Membership indicates to the existing or future employers that the individual is dedicated and has ambition to succeed in their profession.

Professional bodies are also there to promote professionalism in their industry and help push members to achieve the standards of excellence associated with their profession. They are committed to developing and maintaining standards and policies for education within their profession and can also push for social awareness and debate. Some organisations can even influence government and industrial policy decisions.(

CPD within Professional Bodies

CPD was originally developed as part of the main objectives set out by these organisations, to educate their members. This process evolved and continual learning was identified as a pivotal part of the education process. This identifies clearly with the last three decades or so where the world of business has changed dramatically in every aspect. Professionals can no longer be content with sufficient skills and knowledge at a point in time, but have to be continually updating them to have a chance of survival. Professional bodies can now satisfy these needs through the use of CPD.

The following figures from a survey carried out in the UK by the Professions Associations Research Network(PARN) show how widely CPD is used.

85% of professional bodies have CPD Policies in place

  • 20% compulsory schemes(increased by 3% since 2003)
  • 20% obligatory
  • 43% voluntary
  • 14% mixed

(PARN survey for the International Accounting Education Standards Board(IAESB))

Recording & Assessing CPD

There are a number of different ways in which CPD can be recorded and assessed. This a crucial part of the process which is being implemented more and more. Recording what is learned is beneficial to both the participant and the body who assess them.

Input based CPD is the most commonly used system where CPD is measured by recording the amount of time put into the process by the participant through the amount of hours they put in. Most professional bodies regulate the number of hours a professional needs to put in to progress within the organisation. This system is not as accurate as some other methods as the effort put in by the participant cannot be assessed. Smaller bodies tend to have more input-based CPD than the larger bodies as fewer resources are needed to run the programme compared to other systems. Input-based schemes are most commonly used in health, finance, law, business and management, with professional bodies with regulatory responsibilities currently favouring input-based schemes.

Output-based CPD is another common system where the participant is assessed on what they have learned through CPD over a period of time. A regular peer review is a common method of assessment where experienced members of the profession review what has been learned. CPD can be self assessed also where participants reflect on what they have learned and how this can be applied to their daily working lives. Professional bodies may also require their members to complete an assessment or report directly after learning and send it to their body so it can be assessed and recorded. Engineering, construction and media bodies use mostly output-based schemes to assess their member’s progress.

66% of professional bodies measure CPD

  • 28% input based(60% in hours/ 24% in points/ 12% other)
  • 20% output-based(competency-based/ reflective/ peer review etc)
  • 17% combination
  • More measurement in other countries like Australia & Canada

CPD Cycle

The CPD cycle is similar to most other management cycles and contains four key elements planning, action, evaluation and reflection on action. The cycle can be entered at two points, reflection on practice and action, but always ends at evaluation no matter which starting point is chosen.

    • Reflection on practice-The CPD cycle may start at this stage if you think that you need to learn something maybe by not knowing something that you think you should know or by identifying an inadequacy when completing your day-to-day job. What needs to be learned may often be identified by looking back to any experience in your normal day-to-day work where something stands out or has gone wrong. Reflection on practice can be as simple as a personal interest which you would like to follow up.

“What do I need to learn?”

“How do I know that’s what I need to learn?”

    • Planning-Planning is essential to any process carried out in business. It enables the objectives and targets of the CPD to be identified before the process begins and gives people involved a better understanding. By looking back over the previous cycle the individual can work out what needs to be learned and how they can go about learning it. To plan the relevant CPD to be undertaken the participant must be able to identify gaps between current and needed competencies.
    • Personal Development Plans(PDP) are a good way to help you think about where you would like to be professionally in the short, medium or long-term.

“When do I need to learn it?”

“How important is it for me to learn it?”

“How exactly am I going to learn it-what are my options?

    • Action-The CPD cycle can start at action purely by chance through unexpected learning that has occurred without previous planning. This is called ‘unscheduled learning’ where the individual hadn’t consciously set out to learn. Action can also play a part in ‘scheduled learning’where the process starts back at the reflection stage. Schedule learning occurs where an area for learning is uncovered and a plan is put in place before action is taken.

“What have I gained from this action?”

    • Evaluation-Evaluation is always the last stage of the CPD cycle and is one of the most important. The aim of this stage is to identify if plans set out and actions taken delivered on what they were set out to achieve and how this learning has been applied. If the objectives were achieved then a full cycle has taken place. CPD may not impact on the individual’s work immediately after learning has taken place. The specific CPD cycle can be completed at a later stage when knowledge is put into use.
    • If the process has not or has only partially delivered then the participant has to decide whether learning set out still has to happen or whether the topic lost its relevance along the way.

“Did I learn what I set out to learn?” “How have I applied what I have learned?”( 19/02/2010)

CPD in Construction


The need for CPD is widely acknowledged in the construction industry. There are three main parties that need to co-operate fully in order to extract the most from CPD, the professional themselves, their employer and the professional body they are a member of. All three have responsibilities to uphold to carry out successful CPD which will be discussed later in the chapter. Other parties that also play a part include the government and independent CPD providers.

The Individual Professional

Whatever CPD is being undertaken the individual professional is central and has full control over what is learned and how much development occurs. Motivation is key in this aspect, no motivation means minimal learning and development takes place. Professionals may be self-motivated through their own drive or ambition to achieve; this can also be linked to the personality of the professional. Their working environment and the people around them can have significant affect also on a professional’s motivation or will to achieve.

Construction like many other industries forces the professionals working within it to constantly improve and is never at a stand still. From the day a professional graduates their skills and knowledge is gradually being out-dated and need to be improved to keep up to scratch.

Most professional bodies set up a framework for their members to work from but it is the individuals own responsibility to implement this framework appropriately. This framework sets out various techniques to plan, implement, review and evaluate CPD.

The Employer

The employer can be very influential on how effective CPD is on the professionals they employ. The employer’s mind set and understanding of CPD is crucial in facilitating professionals with an adequate environment to carry out CPD. There are many benefits to the employer who invests time and money into the CPD needs of their employees which are explained below.

To have the optimum effect employer must encourage their professionals to part take in CPD both at the workplace and with other CPD providers. This may be achieved by allowing professionals time off during working on an ongoing basis to complete external training courses, in-house training and other CPD events. Employers co-funding of CPD is also important to show the professional that they are being backed by their employer and that there is no financial downside on the professional by completing CPD.

The employees of a good company are one of its most important assets. Supporting professional’s CPD reaps many benefits for the company as a whole in the long run. Professionals become more competent in their jobs, increasing job satisfaction, and have a wider knowledge of the overall construction industry. They can also boost the knowledge and skills they have in a specific field and learn more about other areas in which they have an interest in. This may give them an extra dimension when opportunities in that area occur.

Through allowing professionals to be trained and advised outside of the company, a stead stream of fresh knowledge and techniques is constantly flowing into the company. These techniques and knowledge can then be passed down to other employees and used throughout the company.

CPD Costs

The cost of attending seminars can be offset, by certain practices and self-employed professionals, against tax as a business expense.

Professional Bodies in Construction

Professional bodies are the key to the advancement of any professional in construction. Without them there would be no base for the continual learning and development of professionals outside their workplace. They provide a suitable environment and many useful resources for professionals to increase their knowledge and sharpen their skills.

Each institution’s definition of CPD varies to some extent and their policies tend to go in line with their interpretation of what CPD is. However the majority agree that CPD is essential. CPD was applied to the construction area in the 1980’s and has become a crucial part of all professions involved in construction.

The affects CPD has on a body’s members depends on how well their CPD policy is structured and how well the policy is implemented. Both are vital factors and need to be assessed before and during implementation to ensure they impact successfully on members.

The core group of four professional bodies, studied later, within the construction industry are all old and established institutes, but they are the professional bodies of a large percentage of Irish professionals in the industry today. They are all well over 100 years old, whether they were established in Ireland or established in Britain and an Irish branch formed. These four institutes cater for managers, engineers, surveyors of every kind and architects in construction, but may also accept various other professionals whose work relates to construction but are not necessarily linked to construction as a whole profession, lawyers or legal professionals are a prime example.

Some professionals can interlink between institutes and become a member in both if the specific area they are working in is

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