Whilst studying at university, particularly if you have selected a suitable degree course, your education, training and development activities are mainly pre-determined.

This may also be the case if you decide to take a higher degree. However, when you start work, you will need to take full ownership of your own continuing professional development whether a formal work-based development scheme exists or not.

Roy Shepherd, product development, BCS, provides advice on what you can do to ensure your development doesn't end when you leave university.

Best practice

Best practice for continuing professional development will usually mean:

  • Professional development against a standard, which may be your job description or a formal training and development standard.
  • Cycles of development (say of six or twelve month's duration) where you will usually prepare, plan, do and review your development and training objectives and activities.
  • Obtaining some form of approval or recognition of these development plans and achievements.

If you are employed, some or all of the above components may be provided by your employer, who may well be operating an accredited BCS professional development scheme.

These schemes involve professional development against a standard - usually the BCS's SFIAplus standard, cycles of development, company mentors and external inspection by the Society.

SFIAplus standard

BCS runs the SFIAplus standard, which builds on the high level UK-recognised Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) to provide the IT skills, training and development standard.

All BCS members have access to the comprehensive SFIAplus standard. Automatic access is provided on the members' secure website. This is a simple-to-use tool providing access to comprehensive training and development resources and standards for over 250 different types of roles. It is strongly recommended that all members dip into this tool to look at the skill resources and detailed role standards and, in particular, use the search tools to explore career options.

BCS also provides a best practice career builder tool for those members who do not have a satisfactory work-based scheme.

For organisations, the BCS promotes the use of SFIAplus in a range of professional development products.

Professional development

The key aim of all these schemes is to regularly plan and review your professional development. You should aim on a regular basis to cover development to meet the following needs:

  • Specific business objectives required by your employer/client.
  • The general internal or external standard you are working to.
  • Your personal aspirations.

Training and ISEB qualifications

Training is the term normally applied to the acquisition of skills which are essential in order to carry out tasks competently. This may be done in many different ways away from the workplace, or by supervised learning on the job. Examples of technical training are the type of qualifications run by the BCS Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB).

BCS website (open to the public)

The BCS offers many types of assistance to those with a budding IT career. Sections of the BCS website that are worth checking out are:

  • Join BCS: monitor your progress and gain recognition by progressing through the various BCS membership grades.
  • Qualifications: the ISEB section contains information on the full range of exam options available.
  • Careers, professional development and students: these sections contain specific information to help you with your career development.
  • Networking: join your local branch and become involved and consider joining a specialist group, for example the Young Professionals Group, which is a dynamic and advanced mixture of IT professionals and students from all walks of life and many specialisations.
  • News, IT subject areas, publishing, events and awards and BCS and society: keep up to date with what is happening.

Members' secure website

Log in to the BCS members' secure website for exclusive access to:

  • The BCS online library: to look at, free of charge, the most relevant and current reports and books.
  • Professional development software tools: which you can use, for example to browse the detailed SFIAplus standard.
  • BCS forums and ITNOW feedback discussion area: to participate in the latest discussions.
  • Members' email forwarding facility: to make sure you can always be contacted and software, publications and training course discounts: to ensure that you get best value for money on software and training used for professional development (see exclusive benefits).

Roy Shepherd MBCS has a BSc honours degree in chemical engineering from Loughborough University and an MBA in project management from The Henley Management College. Roy Shepherd joined BCS in 1994 and, after various posts, now focuses on the development and support of the BCS Professional Development products and services.