With the introduction of Higher Technical Qualifications in England, career-focused education is in the spotlight and professional bodies can often provide that link between education and industry. So, what exactly is a professional body, and more specifically, what are the benefits for students looking to get into employment?
Professional organisations in specific sectors
According to a report from Memberwise, a professional body is an “organisation with members (mostly individuals) practicing a profession or occupation. These organisations usually have oversight on knowledge, skills, support, conduct and practice of the respective profession/occupation.” They can therefore provide support during a student's education journey and in deciding on next steps.
Professional bodies are more common in certain sectors, many of which directly relate to BTEC Higher National qualifications. As an example, we work closely with a variety of organisations across the construction sector, including the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE), and we know that many of our students go on to apply for CABE membership.
A badge of recognition in the industry
CABE works with educational institutions and qualification providers to support the development of different education pathways, including Higher Technical Qualifications and apprenticeship degrees. Through these collaborations, and by providing accreditation to courses, CABE ensures that standards of education meet the needs of the industry.
Accreditation from a professional body reaffirms that students are immersed in real-world learning, and it reinforces to employers that graduates are competent, knowledgeable, and professional individuals.
As an example, Adam Brown completed his HND in Construction and the Built Environment with Leeds College of Building and will be starting his top-up degree in Building Control with the Local Authority Building Control (LABC).
Adam now works at Bradford City Council as a Building Inspector, where he started at the age of 16 as an apprentice and has moved up the ladder - each education level bringing him further progression at work. He recently signed up for CABE and will be applying for Associate Membership shortly.
Motivation to sign up
We spoke to both Adam, and John Barfoot, Learning, Education and Academic Director at CABE, about the benefits of signing up. They highlighted six reasons for joining a professional body:
1. Access to information and sector-specific resources
CABE produce ten editions of their journal, Building Engineer, each year, which is available to members digitally and in print. For Adam, one of the benefits of CABE membership is that it gives you exposure to better understand what you need to do to get to the next level in your career in building engineering, and it also helps clarify the professional standards in the sector. He is interested in looking at other routes in the future, such as Project Management, and he hopes that his CABE membership will help him to explore this further.
2. Access to relevant certification or professional qualifications
Certain professions require specific qualifications to be able to practice, and professional bodies often set the formal route for this, and this is particularly relevant within the construction industry. For example, to become a Quantity Surveyor you are required to gain professional recognition from RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).
For Adam, having the postnominals at the end of his name is certainly a benefit, enabling him to progress in his career. It helps to show what he has achieved and demonstrates that he has met the required competency to take the next step.
3. Lobbying for interests within the sector
Professional bodies often work together with their network and partners to lobby for change within the industry. For example, CABE is at the forefront of improving competency within the construction sector, and it plays a pro-active role on several of the governments working groups - around competency, building safety and climate change. CABE values and supports the work of training providers and is committed to continual professional development (CPD) and lifelong learning.
4. Professional advice
Adam was keen to highlight that his college really supported students in their decision about which professional body to join, depending on where they want to go in their careers. Indeed, there are several organisations available, many of which offer benefits to Higher National students, such as the Chartered Institute of Building or the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT). It is important for students to do their research and make sure that the professional bodies will be able to support them in their chosen career.
Furthermore, CABE would regularly come into Leeds College of Building and give talks to students. Through these links, students can access resources to help with assignments, such as articles around new technologies within the sector.
5. Work experience and job opportunities
CABE has over 60 academic partners, 100 company partners, a long-established network of regional and international committees and the CABE Community which provides an online forum for members to make connections and network.
These networks provide the perfect link between students, academic institutions and employers for work placements and career opportunities. CABE also partners with colleges to establish placement opportunities for learners on T levels.
6. Events and networking
As well as speaking at individual colleges, CABE offer a variety of events and training across the country and online which support members with both technical and employability skills and knowledge. Some examples include:
- professional interview preparation,
- Basic Structural Design for Non-Structural Engineers,
- Fire Safety Practitioner Certificate,
- common issues with loft conversions - a recipe for success.
CABE is just one of the professional bodies that focuses on the construction industry, but other sectors will have their own, such as the Chartered Institute of Management or Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. At Pearson, we work with professional bodies across many sectors to ensure that students enter employment with the right foot forward.