One of the topics discussed at a recent meeting of the Education Training Group (ETG) was Assessment of Prior Learning (APL). It arose from discussions on the important issue of recognising experienced workers who have (for many reasons) not gained formal qualifications. These individuals represent a significant part of the plumbing profession, and as a result play an essential role in professional application of their skills and knowledge in the services they provide to their employers and the public. They have gained this expertise over many years. Many would have been apprentices and entered employment some years ago when entry to technical colleges and the range of examinations were limited.

This current obsession with traditional examinations is one of the issues weakening the education and training system of this country. However, APL offers many opportunities to present evidence from daily ongoing professional practice in real environments, which are open to the commendation of their customers and qualified colleagues. Digital technologies can record practice in action. Evidence can be presented in professional portfolios and work-based diaries. These would be endorsed and signed off by their employers and the people they have worked for.

Such memberships from professional bodies would more fully acknowledge their professional status. It would also allow progression up the membership ladder.

Decision makers need to become better informed and more up to date and enlightened by supporting the adoption of these approaches. This would also remove existing barriers to entry and progression to professional membership. Existing qualifications, in spite of successive reforms, still cause difficulties for smooth progression.

Even practitioners with existing vocational qualifications from such bodies as CGLI, Edexcel and others still find it difficult to progress easily onto Engineering Technician, Incorporated Engineer or Chartered Engineer status.

As mentioned above, it is so easy now to benefit from the tools and advantages of Information and communication technologies. The CIPHE has created an excellent website including material to help Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The Institute plans to enhance the website further to include APL techniques and methods to attract experienced workers to articulate their experiences. This could take the form of quizzes and virtual images of actual plumbing activities and this approach will be more appealing and motivating to the practitioners. It is a very exciting initiative by the CIPHE, which will further enhance its reputation and will recognise the importance of experienced workers.

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