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Professional life

EUR ING Dr David Hope LLDip CEng CGeol EurGeol FGS* writes of his lifelong journey of learning.

ljkgSome new geology and geoscience graduates I met recently expressed surprise at how much they had to start (and continue) learning on entering the work environment.  Hadn’t they spent three years, plus a masters, doing all that?  Worse, I have heard Chartered professionals – geologists and engineers - give sighs of relief as they declare, ‘that’s it now - I’ve finally got through; an end to all this learning’. 

When we became graduates, the Degree Congregation ceremony publicly commemorated and conferred our degree.  We may recall that day as a memorable finale to a demanding journey, but we should be mindful that it was actually a new beginning.

As students, we could expect our tutors to identify our mistakes and correct them.  They took responsibility for seeing that what we learnt was correct and current.  On graduation, that responsibility devolved to us.  Thenceforward we stand on our own feet, identifying our own errors and putting them right - and keeping abreast of new knowledge.

At our degree ceremony our mentors publicly declared confidence in us.  They admitted us as ‘one of their own’.  The concluding procession as we exited the hall, family in tow, ended our journey to a degree.  We held the key to the doors of professional life – our next journey.

As with degrees, Chartership is a public declaration by our peers of their conviction of our professional competence.  They too, admit us as one of their own.  Additionally, they trust us to continue to develop our competence; that we involve ourselves with our professional body; and that we shall in turn eventually become mentors ourselves, supporting and guiding new pilgrims on the road to professional Chartership.

Keeping abreast

Professional life is where we develop the skills to apply our learning for practical effect.  But, becoming professionally competent is more than training and knowledge alone.  It is the acquiring and use of skills for beneficial outcomes.  This practical application of learning has to take place within a framework of law, regulation, current technical standards and best practice as applied to our particular area of work.  For engineering geologists, this includes Eurocode 7, the Attachments and the UK National Annexes.  These are obligatory.  They change, and are another incoming tide for us to keep up with and apply.

Few (If any) would wish to find ourselves at the mercy of a surgeon, GP, lawyer, or accountant, who was years out of date.  Yet, apparently some are unperturbed at inflicting their outdatedness on employers and clients paying for their services.  Whether aspiring or Chartered professionals, we should all embrace keeping abreast of evolving current standards and best practice - and learn and apply creative and innovative technologies.  Our commitment and diligence to CPD must therefore become a habit, like eating and sleeping; just another, normal a part of our professional life routine – both before and after Chartership, always there to be done again.

* Dr David Hope is a Geotechnical Consultant – currently engaged by DTS Raeburn