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7:15 pm
December 1, 2003
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Professional Development: Alive and Well (or at least Getting Better)

Diagnosis: Among the victims of the economic slowdown over the past few years have been many professional development programs. Companies and individuals alike have been rather reluctant to “invest” (I believe PD is an investment, not an expense) significantly in training or educational opportunities.

While many of us would agree that this has often been shortsighted, we probably would also agree that limited finances require prudent controls and reduced cash outflow. Difficult decisions have to be made and perhaps we in the profession need to do a better job of helping companies and individuals understand the long-term value of developing the professional skills of our people and ourselves.

However, there is good news. This situation appears to be changing as the economy seems to be headed toward better times. And as the old adage suggests, “a rising tide floats all boats.” Thus, things are also looking better for the world of professional development.

Conferences: Recently I attended the SMRP annual conference in Indianapolis. This year it had record attendance, essentially double what attendance was a few short years ago. These attendees were primarily practitioners looking for knowledge, information, networking—in other words, looking to develop their professional skills and stature.

There are several other conferences that are being planned and advertised by various entities for next year. Let’s hope that the attendance increase the SMRP conference experienced is also reflected in these other conferences. These are great places to quickly gather information and develop some excellent ideas to enhance your performance and that of your business.

Certification: Just over 100 people took the SMRP Certifying Organization’s exam at the conference, attempting to become Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (CMRP). To date more than 600 people have taken this exam. The successful ones who pass the exam gain recognition of their own personal professional development. And the unsuccessful ones learn of their areas that need improvement and can use that information to seek further training or education.

Exams such as this help us develop our capabilities by pushing us to excel and to succeed. Other certifications also exist throughout the industry and serve to push us forward toward professional excellence. Those who choose to participate in these types of certification programs improve their own capabilities and then are prepared to transfer those improvements into their businesses.

Education: Those of you who have read my column before know that I am a strong proponent of having more university involvement in the maintenance and reliability field. Wes Hines from the University of Tennessee gave an excellent presentation at SMRP outlining current U.S. university participation as well as a comparison of the U.S. approach to that in other countries.

He also discussed the quickly growing and improving techniques of delivering educational programs to off-campus sites such as the student’s home or workplace. Watch for this area of education delivery to expand rapidly.

Training: One of the things very obvious at the SMRP conference was the great number of companies offering training in the maintenance and reliability field. A number of exhibitors extolled their capabilities in providing both specialized and general training. Several of the presenters alluded to their internal and external training programs.

One needs only to look through the advertisements in this magazine to realize the diversity and number of offerings. Or, one can follow the various summaries of training opportunities that appear in this PDQ section each quarter.

Prognosis: Professional Development programs appear to be gaining strength and growing stronger, following along with the economy. This is a great sign for the profession. Only as we as individuals, and as the maintenance and reliability field, continually develop ourselves in our professional lives will we truly become professionals.

If we want maintenance and reliability to be included in the leadership of our businesses, we must achieve professional stature and be recognized for it. I believe that Professional Development in our field is alive, is getting better, and can “get well” if we all push forward by participating in the ways described above. MT

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