Textbooks are a good source of learning material, but they don't make you competent. Petrina Oxshott explains how to choose your reading materials and training courses

An interesting week and some interesting points to raise stemming from our MOT test and subsequent comment.

First, lots of questions about the textbook with the error. No it was not a CII textbook. As we have said before on this page, the CII has moved mountains to update and invigorate its textbooks and remain the major supplier of generic technical information to the industry.

Indeed, there have been occasions when CII textbooks have been referred to by experts in court and you cannot get much better than that. Or can you?

The answer is that, from the perspective of learning, you can get better than that and much depends on the ease with which such material may be used for learning and as a source of reference.

To my mind this is where the CII and other noble bodies of learning have excelled over the past few years. There is some way to go, but I do encourage any reader to look carefully at the modern textbooks, both as a learning and reference resource, and consider building a library within your firm.

Remember you can buy a textbook without taking the exam.

Whether it is the CII or your own examination body, go to its website and look at the examination syllabuses. You will find something there for every area of the business and every level.

Many modern qualification textbooks also have a series of short assessments running through them.

So, if you are responsible for training in your firm, these can be a great idea to reinforce the concept of continuing maintenance of competence. Words of warning, though. Most professional bodies sell textbooks on the basis of one copy per person. You will probably need permission to make any copies from the book and it may not be given. This is not the organisation being mean. A good textbook is expensive to produce and update and, as an industry, we should understand that the quality and currency of textbooks can be maintained only if the funds are there to allow that to happen.

From a compliance perspective, my opinion is that all practitioners should be encouraged to build their own 'learning' libraries if they want to take the job seriously.

Equally, cost is a factor, and perhaps one can split that into supervision groups. For instance, the supervisor keeps the library with access limited to members of that group only.

Textbooks tend to be generic. Competence extends beyond this to the actual job that is being undertaken. No textbook is ever going to be sufficient to demonstrate on-the-job competence and should ever be considered only as part of competence measurement. Indeed, until examination bodies accept that they should tell a candidate, particularly those who pass, what they got wrong on a paper (in detail) one has to ask how an examination serves to protect the public.

So, a practitioner with a good range of textbooks relative to his/her work is far better off than one without (assuming they are used), as are the practitioner's clients. But it is only one piece in the drive towards continuing competence.

Which leads to an interesting piece of news which is the projected launch of Broker Assess, the CII/Biba online assessment tool. which we understand is to be available at the end of July. I declare an interest to the extent that RWA is working with the project.

In terms of building and developing a knowledge and understanding assessment system for brokers (not just Biba members) this is hoped to be useful for the majority of brokers who want to measure their gaps in knowledge and understanding.

We also have reports this week that training companies and online learning providers are again trying to sell training courses without brokers carrying out a training or learning-needs analysis.

The GISC warned about this practice some time ago. Would you be willing to buy life assurance without a fact find and needs analysis these days? Here are some guidelines:

  • Find out what potential delegates do not know or need to know (or do)
  • Ask the training provider for details of the course
  • Consider whether the course covers this
  • Are the aims and objectives of the course the same as yours?
  • Are the desired outcomes and learning and application targets the same as yours?
  • If the answer is yes, but it is only a small part of the training, could the delegate achieve what you want in another way?
  • Remember that regulators want evidence of competence, not training. Evidence of competence is many other things than just a host of training courses. Training is normally reserved for something you are not competent to do or do not know.
  • Training is ideal for: a new job; a new skill; wide learning needs development of existing skills; where there is evidence of serious incompetence; it does not have to be group training; it does not have to be away from the office.

  • Make sure there is or you can ask for an assessment, particularly some time after the event. This may cost more, but it could be worth it.
  • This list not exhaustive, but the message is that before you spend hard-earned funds on training, make sure it is relevant and that you can measure whether it has worked or added value to your business.

    Do not mix up formal training with a true "workshop". The FSA encourages networking within the industry and getting together in a small or large group, often with specialist speakers or facilitators.

    Finally, there are many fantastic trainers and training providers out there (as well as some awful ones). You can tell the difference by the fact that they deal with you with skill, care and diligence.

    It is your job to evaluate the need for training (although the training provider may offer to help) and the least you should do is ask for the contents and the objectives of the course.

    If you buy training without a needs analysis you cannot blame the training provider if it is not what you needed.

    Petrina Oxshott is an independent compliance and training analyst

    Using this CPD page
    For the vast majority of practitioners and indeed support and supervisory staff in our industry, CPD is about regular learning and study that is planned, recorded, timed and evaluated.

    If you are a member of a professional body with a CPD requirement then there will be certain rules regarding the quality and nature of study material, and the way in which it is recorded.

    For staff of GISC members this means recording on your individual training file what the learning was, who provided it and when.

    It might be structured, such as a course, a learning programme or exam study. But it can be unstructured. This form of study encompasses reading the trade press, technical material or taking part in activities to support your professional body.

    Some CPD requirements are points related (a little antiquated) and others require a time value to be allocated.

    For example, it might take one hour to read Insurance Times each week. Most of that could be put as a time value but, in reality, perhaps only an half hour was devoted to learning something. The rule is to be honest with yourself and record the time that is relevant.

    Always take time to make a note of what you felt you gained from the activity. This is useful information for anyone else considering the same activity.

    In response to the popularity of our CPD programme each week's CPD page can now be downloaded from our website. We will be preparing a binder for you to keep these in alongside the results of the exercises.

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