Article 2: AIH Ongoing Education

Graham Fletcher (MAIH)

Graham Fletcher (MAIH)

Graham Fletcher has over 45 years of experience in the Australian horticulture sector and brings a wealth of skills, knowledge and insights to the role of AIH's Ambassador Horticulturist.

This is the second of a short series of articles about the role of AIH in furthering education for its members. In this article, I explore some possible directions for this on-going education. See also Article 1 and Article 3 in this series.

Background

AIH includes specific requirements in its Constitution for quality professional development, the dissemination and exchange of horticultural knowledge, and horticultural education and continuous learning1. AIH has a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirement for Registered Horticulturists involving a tally of points acquired over a two-year period2. There is also an informal expectation for all members to be involved with CPD through attendance at the AIH CPD events. The long-term success of any CPD programme depends on an understanding of need, coupled with the willingness to participate. The CPD programme has to keep evolving to reflect the immediate future, which in the current situation means post COVID-19. I see this as an opportunity for an increase in CPD events over the next few years to ensure the betterment of members, and therefore horticulture.

Understanding Of Need

There are currently three obvious needs, but there may be more. 

  1. AIH has regional chapters that allow for regionally-located events to address the specific needs of those regional members. Skill-based events to cover any perceived gaps should be a first priority and are ideally face-to-face events.
  2. ALLIED INDUSTRIES & PROFESSIONS. AIH is in a unique position as an institute since it represents both horticultural industries3 and professions4. Many members provide a service that is part of both a recognised industry and profession, with horticulture as the core of all AIH members’ work. The need is to increase understand between the allied fields of AIH members since there are many areas where that understanding has mutual benefit. Although there is already collaboration across allied fields, there is potential for this to increase. For example, there is scope for increased collaboration between:
  • Designers and nursery people – plant selection and availability;
  • Constructors and gardeners – linking construction and maintenance;
  • Business owners and researchers – application of new knowledge; and
  • Others, particularly when individuals from a variety of sectors are able to collectively work through issues of common need.
  1. EMPLOYMENT CHANGES. Some AIH members will have changes to their employment due to COVID-19 and AIH could be a catalyst for identifying local employment opportunities and providing any required retraining through CPD events. Changes to employment are not just due to the pandemic, but are a natural part of everyone’s career. Some institutes offer standard packages for employment changes and career development5. A starting point would be to run CPD events for these known transitions:
  • Entry to a horticulture career from another career;
  • Worker to supervisor – progression within the same organisation; and
  • Employee to self-employed – a common career path transition in horticulture.

Article 1 explained some of the structural framework that is necessary for TAFE to function as a large enterprise, but this limits their ability to respond quickly and flexibly to regional need. AIH is perfectly positioned to be able to fulfil these needs as CPD events. Any CPD event responding to a regional need could be repeated in other regions where the need is the same. Where a need proves to be widespread and long-term, it has the potential to be taken up by TAFE or other educational provider as a proven need forming part of their future educational offerings.

The success of any CPD events to address these needs depends on the preparedness of people to organise, present, and participate in the events. This preparedness is also needed for two additional areas to include in any CPD programme, but which aren’t directly a response to regional need, but which are detailed as part of the willingness to participate below.

Willingness To Participate

The second priority of any CPD programme has two parts:

1. NEW KNOWLEDGE. The best ways to impart ‘what’s new’ is to ensure the commercial sense of knowing about it is clear to members. This new knowledge comes from two areas:

  • Sponsors (new products, techniques, etc). Sponsors have a commercial interest in promotion to the people who might be purchasers; and
  • New research or laws. AIH members who are unaware about new research or laws are likely to see themselves as being at a commercial disadvantage to those who are aware. CPD events are an excellent method for research to be disseminated to practitioners, and to provide practical feedback to researchers.

2. TRADITIONAL AND PROVEN EXPERTISE. AIH not only has members from a wide range of industries and professions, it is also a long-established institute and so has members from all stages of their careers. Having experienced and successful members who can be mentors by leading CPD events substantially improves the prospects of someone earlier in their career. Experienced AIH members should be encouraged to share their expertise6. AIH already recognises the potential for mentors, but everyone with experience and success has ideas, approaches, methods and stories that others will find very valuable.

The inclusions in a CPD programme are based on an understanding of need, coupled with members’ willingness to participate. In summary, the suggested five areas of inclusion are:

1. Skills;
2. Allied industries & professions;
3. Employment changes;
4. New knowledge; and
5. Traditional and proven expertise.

How To Do It

There are two different strategies in preparing a CPD programme:

  • To prepare a detailed plan and then to seek people and organisations to carry it out; or
  • To seek people and organisations prepared to be involved in CPD events – presenters, organisers, and participants – and facilitating CPD events.

I recommend the second strategy since it enables events to occur in line with an understand of any of the five inclusions listed above, or any combination of them. It also means that events can be quickly organised if there is potential interest from participants, and the events can be innovative, flexible and specific to place, time, and opportunity. There are two approaches in this strategy, both of which are worth pursuing:

  • The first approach is to research/propose what needs to be done (for areas 1, 2 and 3 above); and
  • The second approach is to seek volunteers to contribute (for all five areas above).

Approach 1 - Research/Propose

There are many ways to research educational need, but the most applicable method of determining CPD need is to ask for reaction to a proposal, and then to respond to the feedback by either organising CPD or proposing something different.

Then, volunteers (Approach 2) are needed to put their hands up to follow up on that feedback by doing whatever is the best way of moving forward with events, for example:

  • Online forums have been common during COVID-19, so these would work as a means of developing ideas together. One person proposes what specifically needs to be done (eg issues and possible events, presenters, locations) for consideration at the forum which resolves the details or agrees to changes;
  • Various forms of social media may be an attractive option to enable rapid feedback and reaction to ideas;
  • Distribution of a template or draft event schedule to members would be a slower but an acceptable method of obtaining information. Perhaps surveys to determine skills needs may also be useful; and
  • Most importantly, proposing a CPD event about something that you believe is missing (particular skills, knowledge or expertise), or that you feel others would like to hear about (something great that you have done, or a disaster or lessons that should be shared).

Approach 2 – Volunteers

Asking people to volunteer is easy. To make it happen is more difficult and requires an understanding of why volunteering is good for everyone, and to provide a pathway to make volunteering easy to do.

Why volunteering is good for you:

  • Everyone develops unique expertise through participation in things that they are interested in. That expertise occurs through learned experience, which includes experience in education. In all the facets of horticulture, there are many ways to do things, and many approaches which have varied degrees of success. Experienced practitioners have tried many things and communicating the good and bad to the less experienced people gives back to the industry or profession. Of course, nobody expects any presenter to give away any commercial secrets, but it improves your professional reputation above your peers, and it is personally rewarding;
  • Being a CPD presenter is an excellent marketing tool for you and your business. The easiest way to facilitate this is to ensure that advertising of events clearly highlights the people who have volunteered; and
  • Teaching anything substantially improves your own understanding of the topic. Ask anyone who regularly teaches and they will tell you how valuable it is as a means of developing your expertise by clarifying your own knowledge and skills.

The pathway to make volunteering easy:

  • AIH has a well-established CPD programme. CPD presenters earn extra points for presenting, so compliance with the overall CPD points tally becomes easier;
  •  AIH has a Code of Ethics7 for its members. Compliance with the code at least partially protects the information given at presentations against its misuse by other members; and
  • AIH has a protocol for the organisation of CPD events. This includes a provision that all costs are covered and that standard things like insurances, venue arrangements, and the like are addressed.

How To Present

In Article 3, I outline how to prepare and present a CPD event.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for successful events? Comment below and contribute to our discussion.

ARTICLE 2 REFERENCES AND DEFINITIONS

1    AIH Constitution 17 July 2006: s4 MISSION; s5 OBJECTS (c) & (d)

2    https://www.aih.org.au/membership/registered-horticulturist-membership/

3    An industry is a group of businesses and individuals which collectively perform a similar type of work that primarily depends on the practical and physical skills of the workforce. These practical skills include dexterity, communication and creativity

4    A profession is a group of businesses and individuals which collectively provide a similar type of advice. This advice is based on an understanding of the importance of knowledge, judgement and ethics

5    For example https://www.agcsa.com.au/education/seminars/professional-development-for-sports-turf-managers/

6    Expertise is the appropriate and deliberate application of skills and knowledge to suit the particular circumstances

7    https://www.aih.org.au/overview/

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