Learn how to audit your skills and create a training plan that meets your needs.
Community workers, as with any group of professionals, should undertake a minimum of 20 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each year.
Working out your training needs can be a challenge, but it is worth investing the time to create 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. Look for these in your position description 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: such as time management, effective communication, working with teams
Client support: such as providing culturally responsive service, engaging with youth, understanding men’s health, accidental counselling knowledge and dispute resolution
Regulatory and industry: such as 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. 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, you will need to honestly evaluate your skill level. You can do this through feedback from performance reviews, supervision sessions and, of course, self-reflection.
|Knowledge/skill||Yet to learn||Beginner||Competent||Advanced|
|Knowledge of professional Code of ethics||×|
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. Prioritise 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.
Everyone learns in a different way. 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. 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. While looser in structure than traditional CPD, 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 and not-for-profit discounts.
Time constraints and location
Self-paced online training is great for those in rural or remote areas 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. 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, and a simple internet search should also turn up good results.
You can easily put together a monthly calendar in Microsoft Word. Make sure you also keep any certificates 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.