Continuing Professional Development (CPD) can improve your employability, enhance your chances of being given more responsibility or a promotion, help leverage a pay rise and increase your overall potential.
It can also improve the performance of the business you are in, because you and your colleagues will be continually learning and refreshing skills – something which is vital in today’s fast moving environment.
In line with other professional organisations, AAT requires members to show evidence of CPD and to take the opportunity to add to their knowledge.
“CPD is important for individual members to keep their skills up to date, especially with all the new legislation that the industry is subject to,” says Jonathan Stocks, Benefits and Services Manager (Members) at AAT. “It’s really vital to keep up with the massive technological changes that are happening, and to be able to demonstrate your professionalism and your knowledge.”
AAT’s policy on CPD is one of quality, not quantity, and is based on individual members setting themselves goals, rather than having to attend a set number of hours of training on an annual basis.
The impact on your employer
“If everyone is committed to CPD then that will help the company they work for on a professional level,” Mr Stocks says. “On a more personal level, it can lead to greater job satisfaction and an opportunity for you to control your career direction.”
When thinking about how to structure and choose your CPD you should first reflect on what skills you want to develop. It is not just about attending external courses, although these can be very helpful. There is also a lot you can do online and in the workplace, and surprisingly, you may already be doing a lot in your job that will contribute towards your CPD.
“CPD is a way for members to demonstrate to employers that they are competent and continually developing,” says Mr Stocks. “From the AAT’s viewpoint, there is a responsibility for us to ensure that anyone who uses the services of an AAT member is sure that they are competent and are refreshing their skills and knowledge on a regular basis.”
How CPD works
AAT has a mandatory CPD policy for its 50,000 members, most of whom are qualified accountants, with a growing number of bookkeepers joining the organisation since they were given the option to do so two years ago.
Of these, 4,500 individuals are licensed to run accountancy firms or provide bookkeeping services to public, usually on a self-employed basis.
What CPD means to members
Paul Smith FMAAT, is a Licensed member and runs his own business Paul R Smith Ltd, from Halifax and Florida.
“I specialise in SMEs, and do everything from bookkeeping, payroll, tax and income. An SME can come to me and I will sort out everything that they need. I divide my time between the UK and US and always make sure I attend the local programmes when I am in England so that I am up to date with my professional skills.”
“The AAT is the only organisation I use for my CPD because I can use the online resources and podcasts for information, and I always attend the tax updates run by my local branch,” he says.
“I find these local events very useful, friendly and great for networking. Everyone knows me as I have been going since I set up my own business in 1999. It is a good way to get to talk to others in the same profession and swap tips and ideas.”
AAT recommendations for planning your CPD
“Our policy is output-based so we don’t specify that you have to do a set number of hours,” Mr Stocks says. “Instead it is more about the outcomes relative to the objectives you have set yourself in professional terms.”
The policy, which is currently under review, will be updated next year, and any changes that might take place will be communicated to members in October.
The four-step plan recommended by AAT is:
- Assess your needs on a professional level
- Plan what you are going to do
- Take action
- Take time afterwards to evaluate
Members should fill in details in their CPD record online via the AAT. A number of accounts are selected at random and are audited and monitored to ensure that standards are being met.
“We get a lot of questions about what counts as CPD,” Mr Stocks says. “The traditional thinking is that it has to be professionally paid for leaning and courses. This is not always the case – there are lots of options.”
This is development which happens in the workplace and could include:
- Coaching and mentoring
- Being part of a committee
- Being an examiner or tutor
For many members, this type of CPD will be something they will do on the job, as part of their upskilling, and counts as learning.
This covers formal education and paid for courses. It also includes attendance at the AAT Annual Conference and the programme of 60 CPD events run every year exclusively for members.
You can find out more information about these events through the newsletter, direct mail, social media and on the AAT website.
Then there are the 300 programmes run by branches around the country. These are local programmes for local AAT members and are free thanks to funding from AAT.
Topics include payroll and pensions updates, budget and tax updates, wills, probate and trusts. The schedule always includes a mix of technical accounting skills and softer skills such as developing leadership potential, networking, communication and influencing.
There are also niche sessions on subjects such as farm accounting, forensic accounting and technology tutorials on software such as Xero, Sage and cloud accounting.
Other popular subjects include Making tax digital, and sessions on the legislation surrounding money laundering, and, in the future Brexit.
“Your personal CPD might be a combination of attending branch events and engaging in e-learning,” says Mr Stocks. “It is a focus on quality rather than quantity – even if you are doing one thing make sure that it is necessary, relevant and useful.”
Studying for a relevant a qualification outside of AAT would also class as a professional activity.
There is a wealth of e-learning modules on tax, financial reporting, payroll and other relevant subjects on the AAT member website.
Members can make use of webinars, articles, podcasts, blogs and the magazine to access information about a range of technical and non-technical subjects.
At present, you’ll need to record all your CPD activity yourself. In the future there will be a system in place to ensure that any ongoing learning and CPD is logged and automatically transferred to your record.
“It’s about remembering to update your CPD record and knowing what counts,” says Mr Stocks. “Get into the habit of doing it little and often. People are often doing CPD without even realising it, especially if they have taken on a new project or responsibility in the workplace.”
Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.