Free Article: Shaping CPD for the future

29 Jun 2023 Institute News

The Nautical Institute’s Chief Executive John Lloyd FNI talks to Seaways editor Lucy Budd about the importance of continuing professional development in the maritime community

Lucy Budd: Why is CPD so important to The Nautical Institute – and to the maritime sector as a whole?
John Lloyd:
 As an educational charity, I think it’s right that The Nautical Institute is at the forefront of the CPD conversation. The whole framework of our strategic plan is in the context of continuing professional development. We need to make sure that we’ve got a workforce that understands the importance of staying current. Getting a certificate of competency is a challenge. It is difficult. People work hard for it. And sometimes there’s a danger that they might think – ‘Oh, I’ve achieved that, now it’s all about the experience’. Experience is important, but so is staying up to date. Equipment changes, specifications change. For example, we’re talking about stopping the production of paper charts in the very near future – and yet, most training in many colleges is still done on paper charts, so those who learned this way will need to upskill to adapt to this.

LB: How has the approach to CPD changed in recent years?
: I think we’ve seen a move away from regarding just time served as sufficient to revalidate qualifications, whether it’s STCW qualifications or dynamic positioning qualifications. It’s about making sure that throughout people’s careers, they’ve got the skills, knowledge and understanding as well as the attitude to do what they need to do today, but also tomorrow. In a rapidly changing environment that’s not always easy to assess without some formalised structure. That’s not to say that non-formalised CPD is not important, and I think we do a lot of it really well. People continue to talk positively about the Seaways journal and how it’s relevant for them in their day-to-day work. We have Branch meetings that bring to our membership matters of local importance and where they set the priorities and lead the discussion; we attend IMO; we lead the professional debate.

LB: A key question is who decides what CPD is appropriate? How far is that a personal decision, and how far is it something which is defined by the industry or by a governing organisation?
JL: That’s a really significant point, and I think it’s a mix. On a personal level, there are people who will be making decisions about second careers and what will differentiate them from the competition. Is it going to be postgraduate qualifications? Something else? At a broader level, with a huge international workforce, it’s important that people are able to define what is expected in a given role, and that we don’t leave that open to interpretation. If we’re going to have a global workforce working in a harmonised industry, we need to level the playing field and expect the same thing of all of our mariners, and particularly so in the offshore sector. Having something like the NI DP qualification that can be used anywhere in the world is an industry benchmark. It is a guarantee that the fundamental underpinning knowledge, understanding, and capability is in place, and up to date.

LB: What’s the background for the introduction of CPD requirements for DP operators?
This is a high tech, high value, high risk, high reward areas of the industry. DPOs are some of the best qualified people in the world, with 97% of them holding Nautical Institute qualifications. It’s a strange thing that for a long time we didn’t require any obligation to revalidate their certificates, and that just doesn’t make any sense. How do we know that people are current and up to date? In 2015, we introduced a requirement for people to demonstrate ongoing industry experience on board ship for 150 days over a five year period. But even that still works out at just one month a year over that period. Working with industry stakeholders, including vessel operators, the International Marine Contractors Association, the International Marine Forum, through our dynamic positioning training executive group, (DPTEG), we wanted to examine whether time served was really still the best way of ensuring that people have got the skills not just to deal to with day-to-day operations, but with what happens when things go wrong. How can we make sure DPOs are up to date with changing regulations, codes of best practice, learnings from incidents and near misses, and so on? As a result of that conversation, we decided there is a better way of doing things that can enhance safety in the sector.

From 2024, we will be introducing a requirement that all DPOs must have evidence of containing professional development. Because we’re going from a standing start, we’re not piling on huge amounts of CPD obligations from the first day. There are a couple of choices that DPOs need to make. They can attend an approved maritime training institute and do a refresher or re-validation course, followed by an assessment. That will complete the requirement until the next time around. But a lot of people see CPD as something which is better done over a longer period. There are a number of providers offering a flexible learning opportunity via a learn-on-demand model, which would allow you to take a couple of modules a year over the five year period.

LB: But whichever CPD route DPOs choose, that still culminates in an exam at the end of the five-year period?
Yes, everybody must do the re-validation assessment, no matter which CPD model they have followed. The exam can be taken online, but it is an independently delivered and monitored assessment in addition to the study elements. We think it’s an important marker that there are external criteria that DPOs need to meet. If somebody is not successful, then they’re demonstrating to us, that actually their knowledge isn’t current enough and we need to help them with that to make sure they’re fully prepared for the workplace. We are alert to the fact that there are some additional costs to this training and, and quite often that will fall to the individuals. We have made every effort to minimise the costs, and we hope that they will not be an impediment. But at the end of the day we’ve got an obligation to ensure that our operators are as safe as possible – and it isn’t justifiable to say one trip a year for five years is sufficient experience to do that. We hope that this is going to result in significantly fewer incident reports, fewer accidents and better qualified, more capable DPOs.

LB: How are you going to be measuring the outcomes of this change?
Incident reports through IMCA and other channels will be key indicators of how the risks and dangerous occurrences are changing over a period of time. We will be monitoring these very, very carefully.

LB: And as the technology and the abilities of DP technology changes, we’ll be looking to our providers to keep those courses updated?
JL: One of the reasons why there’s a certain amount of flexibility in the CPD scheme is that we actually don’t know what some of the questions will be in five years time. We have to have both a level of sophistication about the questions that we ask, and also a level of agility to adapt to the learning requirement in the years ahead. The maritime industry has always used technology to help us, but we’ve never done that without knowledge learning. We’re just trying to provide a structure for that.

LB: Is technology changing the way that CPD is carried out?
One trend that we’re seeing is that you don’t necessarily need to carry all of the knowledge about everything around with you all of the time. We need ‘right size’ learning modules that are available to individuals at the time they need them. Maybe you’re carrying steel cargoes, but you haven’t carried steel in that ship for a long time. You need to go and find out about what is the best practice for steel cargos at the point that you’re going to use it – storage arrangements, the stability, and so on. You might not have had that in your mind for the last 10 years, and best practice may even have been updated in that time. So you need to find a way of getting up to date.

We seek to help our members with this through our member benefits. For example, we’ve got a relationship with the MLA College which means we can provide access to courses tailored to the professional academic needs of our members on very attractive terms. Similarly, the Ocean Technologies group provide access to some of their courses free of charge to our members. This is great for people who are committing their own resources to keep up to date with what they need to do – and this can mean a lot of financial commitment as well as a time commitment. Digital learning opportunities create a great resource, and create a trail in a user-friendly way so that the individuals can prove that knowledge if they change employment. It’s also helpful for the employer to be able to see where professional development needs are emerging.

LB: The NI has always recognised the importance of being able to share experience, and learn from somebody who really knows their topic and ask questions in the moment.
For our courses, we took the decision that we wanted to provide supported learning online. We do that through video conferencing facilities, some case studies, some guided learning, some student handbooks and so on. But we very nearly always have a live tutor so that you can ask questions, and interact with a group. It isn’t sending people off to do computer based training on their own with some sort of summative assessment. It’s far more interactive than that, and our instructors are all very experienced in terms of getting active participation as well. That’s a model which we found very successful with the students. The companies that engage our services have found that valuable as well. An added dimension is that we don’t come with any preconceived agenda or ideas. We employ subject matter experts to engage positively in the area that they’re delivering. Sometimes it’s really useful for a company to have an external perspective. Equally, students are not distracted by wondering ‘well, what does our company policy say?’. It’s an open learning environment, and I think that’s quite helpful. Another way in which the NI takes part in the CPD process is through our interaction with the International Maritime Organisation, which is always looking at the next phase of development, sometimes slowly.

LB: Would you count taking part in the IMO debate as part of CPD? It certainly helps shape the way the industry thinks about the issues which concern our members.
I think it feeds both ways. It is CPD for us and our members to keep up with what is changing – and I hope it is to some extent CPD for people who are listening to what our Nautical Institute team have got to say. Given the changes the IMO are considering, the discussion very much affects the CPD that mariners are going to need for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. When we talk about autonomous ships, remotely operated ships, the next generation of fuels, and so on, they’re not issues of technology in isolation. There are implications for the skills of the workforce and the maritime workforce.

LB: We’ve talked a lot about the importance of CPD for maritime professionals – what do you do for CPD, from a personal angle?
JL: CPD quite rightly changes through the course of your career. For me, a lot of it initially was structured, getting certificates of competency, and then moving on to specialised ships such as tankers and gas tankers. I was always alert to the fact that there might be a second career. So I put myself through management studies and onto a master’s degree in business administration. That helped me to change career, and when the timing was right, I moved into education and training. Now, as a senior executive within the maritime community, I spend my time on a number of things, one of which is keeping up with technical updates so that I’m well informed in terms of what the industry is discussing.

That might be face-to-face in the IMO, it might be reading Seaways, it might be going to branch events. From an organisational side, I interact with other organisations who are facing similar issues – charities reporting, best practice for dealing with Covid, and so on, that I’m responsible for in terms of reporting to the charities commission company’s house. We’re a support network; we share what’s worked well and bring new ideas to the table. That commitment to lifelong learning and professional development sits very powerfully within how I think about things.