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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. Practitioners are placed in a unique relationship to other people and have a responsibility, as well as an ethical obligation, to remain professionally current.

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 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 CPD plan that meets your job needs and addresses your 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.

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 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.

Remember that skills 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. You can do this through feedback from performance reviews, supervision sessions and, of course, self-reflection. 

Skillset
Skill level
 Knowledge/skill  Yet to learn
Beginner
Competent
Advanced
 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:

Priorities

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.

Cost

There are options for every budget. For a start organisations often have a training budget for staff. Keep in mind that your employer will probably only fund training directly linked to organisational goals so you will need to develop a good case for training. Employers may also offer training for staff in less obvious ways such as sessions on legislative changes.

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 some examples that may be useful to you. While looser in structure than traditional CPD and not always skill based, they often focus on current issues 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 training is on the rise and great for those who have limited access to face to face opportunities or who find it difficult to get time off work for professional development. Most providers put effort into making their online training interactive by adding quizzes, videos and case studies.

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 policy is that members can 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, alternative CPD options may be most 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 training such as a qualification in management.

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 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 a common way of recording a training plan and you will be able to keep track of workshops and conferences with specific dates. Make sure you also retain a record of your CPD once completed - most providers will issue you with a certificate of attendance or 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.


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