Develop your personalised CPD training plan

Throughout their careers community workers strive to promote the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities and to empower them to achieve their potential. Because of this, practitioners are placed in a unique relationship to other people and have a responsibility, as well as an ethical obligation, to remain professionally current throughout their practice.

As part of this commitment practitioners, as with any group of professionals, should undertake a minimum of 20 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each year. For ACWA members this is a requirement of membership and for others ongoing learning will most likely be a condition of employment. Working out your training needs can be a challenge but it is worth investing the time to ensure that you start out with a clear and relevant training plan. This is one way of ensuring your time and money is spent wisely. Ultimately, this should also lead to improved services and better outcomes for clients.

The following tips will help you develop a personalised training plan that meets your current job needs and addresses your future career ambitions.

Audit your skills for professional practice
The obvious place to start is in identifying your existing skills and knowledge; those you need (or want); and those that can be developed to a more advanced level. A skills audit will help you do this.

As a community worker, the best place to start is the Australian Community Work Practice Guidelines. This document outlines what is expected of professionals and the standard of practice to which members are held. The Guidelines are matched with a self-assessment tool which you can work through to identify your training needs. You can find these resources here.

There are also certain skills that your employer will have determined as essential for your job role. The first place to look for these is in your position description (including desired skills section) followed by your agreed KPIs.

When identifying your skills remember that they could relate to your performance as a worker, your role as a team member, or the organisational goals of your employer. No matter what your service field, the expertise you need will likely fall under a few key categories:

Personal competencies
Examples include: time management, effective communication, working with teams

Client support
Examples include: providing culturally responsive service, engaging with youth, understanding men’s health, accidental counselling knowledge and dispute resolution

Regulatory and industry
Examples include: record keeping, confidentiality and privacy principles, ethical concerns, legislative changes, best practice, mandatory reporting

Gaining and building these skills should have an immediate impact on your job performance but it is also important to consider your career ambitions. Are you looking to advance your career? Maybe you are just looking for a change of pace. Think about your goals and what skill sets could give you a competitive edge. If there is a particular role you have in mind, again, the best indicator of what skills you need is by finding a position description of the role or speaking to someone in the know.

Evaluate your skill level
The easiest way of pulling this all together is to use a simple table in either Microsoft Word or Excel. As you can see from the example below, once you have identified the skillsets, the next step is to honestly evaluate your skill level. The clearest ways to do this is through feedback from performance reviews, supervision sessions and, of course, self-reflection. 

Skill level
 Knowledge/skill  Yet to learn
 Time management
 Knowledge of professional Code of ethics
 Budgeting  ×

Considerations for your training plan
Now you have identified the skills you want to gain or build upon you will need to consider the best ways to address your training needs. Factors that will influence your plan and are specific to you include:

Learning all at once can mean an overload of information that is easily forgotten so CPD should be spread throughout the year. From the skills audit there should be some competencies that need immediate attention and these are the ones  you need to address early on. These will likely be the skills you need to be effective in  your job or those that the lack of  are holding you back at work, for example,  time management.

Learning style
Everyone learns in a different way. For you it may be through face-to-face instruction, studying the theories behind the practice, hands on use or repetitive learning to ensure that knowledge sticks. It may be that one-on-one training works best for you or it may be group workshops that allow you to bounce ideas of other people and draw on their experiences.

There are options for every budget. For a start organisations often have a training budget for staff. Keeping in mind that your employer will probably only fund training directly linked to organisational goals and your current work it is a good place to start if you can develop a good case for training. Employers may also offer learning opportunities for staff in less obvious ways such as sessions on legislative changes or training on new record management systems.

Most webinars are either low cost or no cost and podcasts are generally free as well. Small Change Radio, Podsocs and Not for Podcast are just some examples that may be useful to you. While looser in structure than traditional CPD and not necessarily always skill based, they often focus on current issues in the sector which will keep you up-to-date with topics that concern you and your work.

For face to face training look out for early-bird specials, 3 for the price of 2 tickets and not-for-profit discounts.

Time constraints and location
Self-paced online e-learning is on the rise and a great option for those who have limited access to face to face opportunities. This is a particularly valuable option for practitioners living in rural or remote areas or for those who find it difficult to get time off work for professional development. Most providers put effort into ensuring their online training is as interactive and varied as possible with short quizzes, videos and case studies incorporated into the sessions.

Webinars and podcasts are also viable options. Podcasts can be downloaded and paused when needed which can make them great for fitting into the day in short bursts if necessary.

Informal versus formal learning
Keep in mind that professional development can come in many forms. Workplace supervision sessions can be considered to be a form of PD, although ACWA recommends that members do not claim more than one fifth of their CPD hours on supervision - it is important to experience a range of training throughout the year.

For skills that relate to future ambitions and career progression alternative CPD options may be more appropriate. If you are aiming for a management role mentoring or coaching may be the way to go. If you’re dreaming of a CEO position you may need to consider formal academic training such as a qualification in management or finance.

Final steps to success
Now you know what you’re looking for it’s time to get started. ACWA has a list of endorsed training opportunities specific to community workers, and a simple internet search should also turn up good results.

You can easily put together a monthly calendar in Microsoft Word. This is one of the most common ways of recording a training plan and you will be able to keep track of workshops and conferences with specific dates which can also be updated as opportunities arise. Make sure you also retain a record of your CPD once completed - most providers will issue you with a certificate of attendance or email confirmation of participation.

Lastly, while the ultimate goal of this process is to create a personal training plan, the skills audit you have created along the way is a great resource for any worker. You can tick off new competencies as you gain them and use it as a reference when updating your resume, getting ready for a performance review or preparing for a job interview.