First among equals

The BBC reports today that first class degrees are soaring.  What are employers to make of this?  Does it mean there are more top class graduates than ever?   More committed students?  Better teaching?  Easier assessments?  More teaching to the test?  Dumbing down?  Any, all, or more.  Expect the usual comments, debate and lack of any meaningful conclusions or changes.  Meanwhile how helpful are degree classifications in choosing a new professional trainee in rural surveying or similar professional consultancy work?  The safe answer is probably, not a lot.

There are excellent examples of graduates who are now leading members of their professions, yet showed little inclination or sign of this as undergraduates.  There are also examples of top-class graduates who have made little headway in commercial, professional or for that matter academic life.  And of course there are low grade graduates who have achieved relatively little since and high grade graduates who have indeed gone on to great things.  Firm relationships prove elusive.

How would I address this today if I were recruiting a new professional assistant?  Here are my tips:

  • I would ask to see the profile of final marks they got for all the modules they studied on each year of the course.  This may highlight relative strengths and weaknesses (but don’t be too sure – you may just be looking at normal variations between one subject and another despite increasing attempts to homogenise these profiles).  These profiles are routinely issued to graduates by all universities.
  • Ask the candidates to prepare some work beforehand.  Perhaps an article for the firm’s newsletter of 500 to 1,000 words, on a given topic.  This could even be useful alongside an announcement of the arrival of the new recruit in due course.
  • Warn the candidates they will be asked to advise a client on a particular subject in exam-like conditions as part of the recruitment process.  Provide some warning of the subject, eg contentious rent review on a let farm, claim for a water-pipe burst or something which is relevant to the work they will be doing.  Allow reference material.  Ask the candidates to draft a short email or letter to the client or other party setting out their advice, by hand.
  • Meet the team: but make sure the team is briefed for whatever feedback you want from them on the candidates.
  • Use the interview imaginatively – include a mix of technical and problem-solving questions; ask candidates to perform a task which they might encounter in their working life with you.
  • Try to find the class position of the candidates.  For example in the top 10%, 25%?  On a reasonably sized course this at least gives an idea of relative performance within the cohort.  It’s not information that is routinely issued to graduates nor readily available, but there’s a growing case that it should be – perhaps to the nearest decile for courses with 50 or more graduates, and quartile for smaller courses.

And if you must persevere with placing any reliance on degree classifications it might be worth checking the statistics for yourself.  The Higher Education Statistics Agency produces the data that underpinned the BBC Report, and UniStat can give you information on individual courses at individual universities.  Comparison of classifications is not the only or the most useful way to compare potential graduate employees.

 

CPD Changes for Chartered Surveyors: Blogging doesn’t count

New CPD (Continuing Professional Development) Rules for chartered surveyors came into effect this month.  They are simple and straightforward, commit us to a minimum of 20 hours CPD a year and a requirement to record our CPD on the RICS website.

The new rules are a welcome simplification of the previous somewhat complex requirement concerning Lifelong Learning.  The sound thinking behind lifelong learning is retained, but its application is simplified.

All chartered surveyors, full time or part time, must achieve at least 20 hours of CPD a year and this must now be recorded online on the RICS website.  The process of recording is simple and straightforward, and you get the option to download a record of your CPD in pdf or spreadsheet formats.  I tried the new system for the last few months of last year and found it easy to use.  You can see my pdf file record on this link.

At least 10 hours of the annual 20 hour requirement must consist of ‘formal learning’.  Formal learning is distinguished by a clear statement of ‘Learning Outcomes’, ie a clear statement of what you should be able to do or know at the end of the session.  Here are examples of Learning Outcomes from some of the sessions I have run for clients:

  • Enhanced familiarity with DCF (Discounted Cash Flow) approaches to appraisal in the context of the Red Book, associated guidance, and its concepts of ‘value’;
  • Enhanced familiarity with modern applications of the Investment Method of Valuation;
  • Appreciation of the scope for marriage, or synergistic, value arising from different investment approaches;
  • Understand the implications of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001 for professional advisers involved in insurance matters
  • Understand the RICS Designated Professional Body Scheme
  • Comply with the requirements of the scheme
  • Distinguish insurance advice, recommendations and arrangements
  • Deal appropriately with commission and disclosure
  • Comply with the regulation’s training requirements
  • Advise on matters to be considered in establishing a new tenancy agreement, both Farm Business Tenancies and succession tenancies under the 1986 Act
  • Evaluate alternative tenure arrangements including contract and share farming, grazing and other agreements
  • Supervise matters requiring attention during the continuation of a tenancy, eg repairing responsibilities and other tenancy obligations of landlord and tenant
  • Prepare for and undertake Rent Reviews in accordance with legal requirements and published guidance
  • Advise on the termination of farm tenancies
  • Consider the valuation requirements which arise on the termination of a tenancy
  • Advise on succession issues following the death or retirement of a tenant farmer
  • Understand the various dispute mechanisms available to resolve matters which cannot be settled through negotiation, and the surveyor’s role within them.

And so on!  All the RICS Web Classes include Learning Outcomes (including my rural ones) so perhaps this would be a good year to try this very cost effective form of CPD for the first time.  The details can be found in one of my previous blogs and on the RICS website.

A new requirement is for CPD to include an update on professional ethics at least once every three years, starting from 1 January 2013.  A straightforward way to cover this is via the RICS Online Ethical Standards Walkthrough Module, which is also free and provides about an hour of Formal CPD.  But other forms of CPD will also touch on ethical standards, as my own CPD record shows.

A helpful summary of the new CPD requirements has been issued by the RICS on its CPD webpage.

Sadly the guidance makes it clear that running a personal website, blog or newsletter cannot count as CPD.  Yet I have found that blogging on new developments has been enormously helpful in developing my own understanding of them.

Nevertheless I’d be delighted to hear from you if you would like to discuss your own or your organisation’s CPD requirements, tailored to specific requirements and designed to qualify as ‘formal learning’ for CPD purposes and including the ethical aspects where required.