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Professional Development Program for SCOs

To help support safety code officers (SCOs) in their occupation and strengthen the safety codes system as a whole, the Council was asked to develop a professional development (PD) program for SCOs. A working group made up of technical sub council members examined professional development programs administered by other organizations, gathered input from the sub councils, and developed a proposal.
 
In July 2014, the Council consulted key stakeholders about the proposed program. Over 3000 information packages were distributed to SCOs, accredited agencies and municipalities, and other organizations. The consultation provided information on the proposed program and solicited feedback through an online survey. There was strong participation in the survey from all disciplines. Nearly 700 people completed the survey and contributed more than 2100 comments. Overall, the survey showed support for the program, with more than two-thirds of SCOs indicating that they believe the program would be personally beneficial. Several participants expressed the belief that professional development will enhance the image of safety codes officers as skilled professionals.
 
Some survey respondents put forward suggestions on how to restructure the program, such as recommending alternative activities to those mentioned in the proposal. All suggestions have been considered by the working group.
 
Common Themes

1.  Time and Cost Requirements

The two issues raised most frequently related to the time required for PD and cost: Will it take time away from my family or other responsibilities? Who will pay for it? This area of concern was most notable in relation to SCOs who work on a part-time and/or voluntary basis. Another concern expressed by some employers was that the time required for PD could result in a backlog in inspections.

In contrast, many participants pointed out that professional development is already part of regular operations and reflects current industry practice. As one respondent pointed out, “Would you hire an SCO in 1970 and expect him to have no training for the next 40 years?” For many SCOs, recognizing that much of what is already happening counts as PD should reduce concerns in this area. 

2.  Questions on the Program 

Some aspects of the proposed program were not clearly understood by respondents.

  • There were questions about the categories of PD and the points system. The category of “practice”, and the difference between formal and informal training were not clearly understood.
  • There were also questions about how points would be allocated and the types of activities that will be eligible for PD credit.
  • The role of the Council was misunderstood by some participants. 

The Council will provide more information through emails and the website, and will take advantage of opportunities to speak to SCOs at conferences, meetings, and tradeshows. 

3.  Special Circumstances

Concerns were expressed by particular groups of SCOs such as non-practicing or part-time SCOs, and those who work in remote or isolated areas. The Council, in consultation with the working group, will review these particular situations to reduce any potential hardship that might result from participating in the professional development program.

4.  Learning Opportunities

Some individuals expressed concern that it might be difficult to find learning opportunities in all disciplines; however, because of the anonymous nature of the survey it was not clear which disciplines might be affected. The Council will work with all disciplines to ensure that SCOs have the opportunity to take suitable courses and other training in their specific disciplines.

5.  Employer Support

Employers will need to support their SCOs to ensure that everyone is able to meet the PD requirements. Most employers already provide informal training in the form of internal meetings and on-the-job training. Whether it’s tracked as part of the SCOs’ performance management or is used to increase the qualifications and motivation of employees, most employers recognize that having highly qualified employees gives the organization a competitive advantage.

Suggestions and General Comments

Professionalism and Safety Codes Officers

There were many positive comments about the PD program in general and its potential to enhance the image of SCOs and align the role of safety codes officers with other occupations that have mandatory professional development. It is seen as a way to stay engaged with the safety codes system.

Safety Codes Council Website Improvements

The Council was asked to add more interactive features to the SCC website. Suggestions include:
  • A comprehensive information package / brochure on the PD program
  • A list of learning opportunities provided by other organizations, with links to those websites
  • A secure area with interactive features including self-registration and online payment for courses and webinars; the ability to view the current points total; current status updates and information management, etc.
Implementation of the PD Program

There were a number of suggestions on implementation of the PD program. A phased-in adoption and/or using the SCO’s renewal date would spread the submissions throughout the year and help minimize process errors. Voluntary participation for the first year was also suggested as a way to “test” processes and make any needed changes before all SCOs start submitting their PD reports.

Flexibility

Several respondents commented on the need for flexibility in recognizing eligible activities. Applying discretion for non-compliance due to personal circumstances was also requested. Ongoing review and modification of the program may be needed as the program evolves.

Summary

The Council recognizes that professionalism is something most SCOs work toward on a daily basis, and we are committed to improvements that will help SCOs advance in this direction.

Although there were expressions of concern, there were many insightful comments and suggestions to improve the structure of the program. This will require further consultation with SCOs and all other stakeholders in the new year. The Council will work on clear communication about the structure and roll-out of the program, and will continue to attend conferences and meetings with our partners and professional associations to provide information and answer questions about the professional development program. We have started to work on creating or improving the procedures and systems that will be needed, so that when the program is implemented, SCOs will find it relatively simple to meet the requirements.

The Council is committed to making the SCO Professional Development program work for all SCOs. We welcome your feedback on this and other issues. Please feel free to contact us at certification@safetycodes.ab.ca or call toll-free
1-888-413-0099.
 
  See the details of the proposed program and some frequently asked questions in the