In my Professional Opinion – Jan 28 – The Workplace – Beware Professional Bodies selling their soul for membership and money

In my previous article, I indicated that conventional wisdom dictates that it takes 10000 hours or 5 years of practice for competency to manifest itself and for an individual to be able to think of themselves, as truly Professional.

Since that article was published I have been castigated and taken to task by so-called experts including Professional Body managers. Generally criticism against my assertion seems to be as follows: “In this modern age of technology a person does not need 10000 hours of practice because most of any skill these days is inherent in ones tools rather than in the individuals competence. Thus a person with a cellphone or Ipad has sufficient technology at their disposal not to need to practice and re-apply themselves for 10000 hours. That iteration is inherent in the computational processing power of their tools at-hand.”

This argument is insulting to those many thousands of University and Technical College Graduates who have toiled hard to develop the self confidence to be able to sell their very necessary services as both Blue and White-Collar Professionals. It smacks of entitlement and wanting to reduce standards for political and racial reasons rather than for what is in the best interests of any Sector or Industry. Its success will foresee the demise of South Africa’s production and professional integrity which many of us have cultivated Internationally for so many decades.

I have suggested that what a Professional Body should be doing is introducing lower levels of Professional Status leading up-to Master Status as the ultimate level of Professional Certification. Thus an “Associate” or “Technical Professional Level” after 3 years of work experience and practice, as a pre-cursor to “Professional Practitioner” status after 5 consecutive years, would make better sense for a Professional Body to apply in-regard to it’s membership. It would allow for gradual recognition and development along prescribed stages of milestones being reached. Undoubtedly for the Professional Body it would also make more financial sense in-that what is currently seen as one product on-offer could evolve into multiple categories of products, each at a different level of application and each as a separate income source for the Professional Body.

It is obvious that Professional Bodies, which want to rush their members into the highest, rather than the optimum level of Professional Recognition, are being short-sighted and quite frankly both lazy and greedy.

It is nonsensical to suggest that a Professional Body which is licensed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), would be granted authority to simply offer one Certification when they are obviously destined to govern the entire stepladder of Professional Recognition for a Sector or Industry.   To envision multiple Professional Bodies offering different levels and strains of Professional Recognition within one Sector or Industry is too horrid and far-fetched to contemplate. Not only would it be financially unsustainable but it would completely confuse the prospective membership of any Profession and scare the public away because of the complexity inherent in overlaps and shortfalls.

A competent Professional Body would develop a complete “Taxonomy of Professional Recognition” from school-leavers through to Master Practitioners. It is from that Taxonomy that it would draw specific qualifying stages for Professional Recognition to be awarded and would detail methods of articulation and integration. As an example a single Professional Body would thus recognize members as Professionals who are professionally competent as new entrants (Associates), technically proficient practitioners (Professional Practitioner), Senior Practitioners and Master Professionals.

One has to ask why then, are so many of the existing SAQA-licensed Professional Bodies content to offer only one single designation when multiple designations and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) learning opportunities are their oyster? A lack of insight? Laziness or Apathy? A lack of competence to do what is required? Too much competition or perhaps too little competition breeding complacency?

Naturally any Professional Body offering school leavers, with two months of experience a chance to be processed (for a fee) through a ridiculously simple process of form-filling in-order to be recognized and designated as Professionally Competent at the highest level (for an additional fee) within any Industry is attractive and will attract membership. But this is not a sustainable model. It is one built on greed, shortsightedness and often one driven by Training Providers wanting their graduates to have a strategic advantage in the marketplace. It is not one built on the integrity of the Profession at-hand. Training Providers should have no role in any Professional Body. The latter is a check and balance that the Skills Development taking place in an Industry has worth and is efficient, fair and credible. It is ultimately a check to determine whether Professionally Competent People are being produced to add value to a Sector or Industry.

Ultimately the question to be put and answered is: “How Professional and Competent are Professional Bodies, to be entrusted with the Professional Recognition of their Members?”