California is one of the few states that does not require professional development hours (PDH) for licensed professional engineers. I’ve often wondered about this and why this is the case. I think that it’s pretty widely accepted that professional development is important. This is just a guess, but maybe California does not have the required hours because making professional development overly structured actually hinders it.
When I look at standard PDH courses, they seem very interesting. Alternatively, I really liked a lot of AU courses and many of those count as PDH in most states. The same would be true of the training classes that we offer at CAD Masters. These classes are a great starting point for professional development. We teach a lot of information that comes from many hours of practicing and using programs such as AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Revit, and Navisworks. We continually strive to improve in our knowledge and ability regarding them.
Learning and developing skills does not end in the classroom. These more traditional methods of professional development should really be only the beginning. For example, if someone did volunteer project work in a developing country, it seems like that would not count as PDH. I would argue that the experience does contribute to one’s professional development. The design challenges faced in the developing countries are quite different than what most people typically encounter in their day-to-day work. Even if the challenges are different, there are still tough decisions. There’s a lot that someone can learn through this type of experience.
This topic is not restricted to the AEC industry either. Steve Yegge, a software engineer at Google, wrote some very interesting articles regarding programming and professional development in this article while he was working at Amazon. The concepts that Steve raises can easily transfer to the AEC industry. How often do we intentionally improve at our profession?
Practice Drill #4 is particularly interesting for the AEC industry. How often do we look at projects with the intent to study them and see what was done well? There’s a lot that we can learn by looking for the nice work that someone else has done. Though this would be a great tool to develop one’s professional skills, it does not really seem like it would fall into the realm of PDH either.
Training classes and coursework are a great way to develop our skill set. We cannot neglect other forms of development either and should continually strive to improve as designers and engineers.