This may not be the sexiest or most appealing sounding blog, but it reminds us of an important point that impacts all of us in our day to day working – workforce development. We would do well to remember that we work in a field were accountability is central, risk management is the name of the game and knowledge is power. We as professionals, practitioners and policy makers need to consistently keep abreast of developments in the field.
Kieran was sitting in a department meeting the other day were we discussed staff workload, programmes and recruitment for the 2017/18 academic year. The meeting focused round the undergraduate provision mainly but we did talk about postgrad teaching, PhD’s, Continual Professional Development (CPD), partnership working, student placements, match funded PhD’s and external training; it made me think about workforce development, which is something that myself and David find ourselves discussing a lot, and what this means for professionals, practitioners and the sexual abuse field in general.
Currently, there is not always enough money in organisations to send their staff to the conferences that they need to, or want to attend. This lack of investment in workforce development becomes more evident when discussing attendance at training events, short courses and qualifications. We remember when business and organisations would pay for members of staff to do MSc/MA or PhD’s as part of work force development; those days are mainly gone now.
Kieran organises a lot of sex offender conferences through the university, the majority of which have been internally funded or funded by research councils (ESRC & Leverhulme trust), and are in the process of starting to organise a conference that participants have to pay to attend; this has been an interesting experience. What will organisations pay for the training that their staff will be getting? What do they expect for their money? How much of a say do they want in the discussion around content and delivery? In the end they may not charge and find another way to fund it. That may be okay in this instance, but it begs the question of how do staff upskill, become more knowledgeable, and become aware of new research/development in the area. Further, whose responsibility is it to make this possible? This is particularly salient if you work in an area that requires you to have professional accreditation, which psychology, counselling, the legal system and social work (all areas that those that world in child protection and sex offender management tend to come from) do.
An alternative argument that we often hear to training and conferences is that professionals should read more journals, books and literature from their area of work. They should set aside time to develop their own skills base. While we don’t disagree with this, I think that there is more to this than meets the eye. Yes, professionals and practitioners can always read more but there are issues associated with this. For instance, (1) how do they access the articles as many professionals in the field do not have access to a vast array of journals; (2) what articles and authors should they read to diversify their knowledge base to make sure that they are not just reading the industry standard [regardless of how good they are]; (3) who pays for the licences, them or their employer?; (4) how do they know what they should be reading, by who and when; and (5) what are they reading for and how do they reintegrate it back into their own/their organisations practice. All of this gets compounded by the fact that most academics publish in pay for journals and books, open access publishing has not reached the mass market yet and those open access publications and not necessarily the ones that academics are encouraged to publish in. I am not criticising either model, both have their pros and cons (currently Kieran sits as an editorial board member and an Associate Editor on two journals with David being an editorial board member on three journals) but it does highlight the fact that professionals and non-academics may not have access to the papers that they need to upskill themselves.
We do not think that sending people on courses and paying for CPD is the only response available to the question of staff development, there are examples of good practice within professional organisations including, article clubs, research Q & A, partnership with academic institutions nearby, support in supervision and annual staff development rounds. What we are saying is that maybe we need to think differently about how we invest in the development of professional staff in the field so that they have access to resources, training and discussion; so that they can be as up to date and as able to help their clients as possible.
Kieran McCartan, PhD, & David Prescott, LISCW