The Debate – The benefits of CPD

Take your job seriously

By Caroline Gardner

In January 2005, CIPFA will implement the first phase of mandatory participation in its continuing professional development scheme.

This effectively means that members elected since 1 January 1994 will be required to participate in the mandatory scheme. During 2006 and 2007, this will be rolled out to the remainder of the membership.

Over the last two years, the CPD scheme has been revised to take into account the needs of members and students, and the new scheme was launched in September 2003 along with CIPFA’s revised qualification to demonstrate the institute’s commitment to lifelong learning.

CIPFA members, through the ethics statement, are already committed to maintaining their professional competence. Mandatory participation in the CPD scheme will enable members to publicly demonstrate this commitment, and provide assurance to employers, clients and society in general that they are receiving the best service.

It is also essential that accountants are regarded as seriously as other professions, such as doctors, engineers, solicitors and financial advisers, who already undertake mandatory CPD.

The flexibility of CIPFA’s scheme means that members are developing skills and knowledge in areas rele-vant to them in their chosen field, and not undertaking development just for the sake of it. Given that CIPFA members are employed in a wide range of sectors, the emphasis on developing relevant knowledge and skills is crucial.

Many, if not all, members, regardless of how many years they have been qualified or which sector they’re employed in, are already undertaking CPD. But they will still benefit from involvement in a more formal scheme that offers the discipline of regular review and reflection.

Not least, it helps to guard against the risk of professional and personal development being crowded out by other more urgent, but not more important, pressures.

  • Caroline Gardner is deputy auditor general of Audit Scotland and a CIPFA member.

Regulation gone mad
By Steven Gash

Continuing professional development is undoubtedly good for the accountancy profession. The main problem with it, is that this is yet another example of over-reaction by the ICAEW.

The last few years have seen the progressive introduction of self-regulation that, while suitable for the industry’s largest firms, places undue pressure on smaller firms.

In proposing to introduce CPD as a mandatory requirement, the institute is ignoring the needs of the everyday accountancy practitioner.

These regulations are designed to clean up the image of those involved in high-profile audits where public funds are involved. While applicable to the Big Four, for the rest, they are unnecessary in the current format.

For the average accountancy firm, traditionally responsible for the training of new chartered accountants, it will be far too costly to train staff to meet the requirements that the institute is threatening to introduce.

What is worse, the long-term survival of the accountancy industry depends on being able to recruit enthusiastic staff, but the institute seems to be trying to deter new entrants to the profession with these increasingly stringent regulations. Rather than encouraging people to join the industry, candidates being diverted towards other careers.

By over-reacting in this way, the ICAEW also runs the risk of devaluing chartered accountancy. There seems to be a trend for professionals, especially by the Big Four, to move away from the term CA, rebranding themselves as ‘business advisers’ or some similarly vague equivalent.

I do believe that – in principle at least – CPD can be beneficial if it takes account of the needs of individual accountancy firms.

The concern is that mandatory implementation will become another symptom of a larger disease currently afflicting our profession.

Perhaps our concerns should not lie with how much strain the introduction of mandatory CPD would place on accountants, but rather how far the institute will go to satisfy the needs of the government.

  • Steven Gash is managing partner at Clough & Company.

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