Increasingly, jurisdictions across Canada and the United States are mandating continuing education (and in some cases, professional development programs) as a requirement to maintain membership in provincial or state interior design organizations.
Over the past five years, the move toward ensuring ongoing competency has been swift and contagious. In Canada, all provincial associations now have programs in place for their members. In the United States, many state boards have continuing education requirements. IIDA has a program in place with ASID coming on board in 2008.
As a practitioner, when first faced with this new requirement, your first reaction is to think, "more requirements, more money." I've heard the same comments many times: "I'm too old to learn" or "I graduated at the top of my class," and the most common one-"I'm trying to run a business ... I don't have time to spend in a classroom." These are all common reactions to the thought of complying with a mandatory education program. However, once an interior designer understands the rationale for the continuing education program and takes that first course, the grouch factor quickly disappears.
As interior designers, the work that we do to improve spaces on a daily basis affects the health, safety and welfare of the occupants of that space. Therefore, we must continually expand and hone our knowledge base in several different areas. We are required to reference building and fire codes on a regular basis to ensure our plans meet current requirements. With the recent emphasis on sustainability, we are beckoned to learn more about LEED® and how to market and sell sustainable solutions to our clients. As the baby boomer generation moves toward retirement, the need for innovative, universal and adaptive healthcare solutions becomes greater each day.
Do you remember what you learned in school 10 or 20 years ago on these topics? In fact, sustainable and universal design weren't even on the radar of most interior design programs at that time so it's highly unlikely that you covered them in class. How many times has the building or fire code changed or been updated since you graduated? My guess is that there has been at least one, if not two, major amendments to the codes as they tend to be overhauled every seven to 10 years. Feng Shui, hiving, bariatrics, daylighting-these are all new ones for me, and I expect for a lot of you too.
If you think about it practically, it is easy to understand the reasons why continuing education for the interior design profession is important ... in fact, essential. To ensure we continue to provide safe, effective design solutions for our clients, it is imperative that we remain current and fully understand the new issues and requirements of the industry. More importantly, without staying on top of these issues your business risks loosing your marketability and competitiveness.
Classroom settings are one of the most effective means of learning when trying to understand a new topic or glean new information. IDC, ASID and IIDA all participate with the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC) to provide relevant instruction-based courses for our profession. Any instructor wanting to deliver a course to the interior design community must go through a rigorous IDCEC review process where the course content and materials are reviewed by at least four interior designers. If you see a course that has an IDCEC number, you can be assured that it will be relevant to your profession.
There are also self-directed continuing education learning opportunities. A course that is self-directed is something that you have found on your own and determined to be relevant learning material. Some mandatory programs permit self-directed learning and some do not, so be sure you check your organization's requirements.
As the industry moves toward mandatory education requirements, professional organizations are moving at an even quicker pace to try and find meaningful and relevant learning opportunities for practitioners. More and more conferences and tradeshows across North America are offering continuing education programs. E-mails arrive in our inbox announcing upcoming Webinars that provide opportunities for the entire staff to participate, and my personal favorite-continuing education articles where you read an article, answer questions on what you have learned and submit to the sponsoring organization to earn your points.
So, what is a busy practitioner to do? First, set an annual goal of how many hours you will set aside for learning each year. Remember to combine different types of learning. Classes are important and you should take at least one classroom-based course each year to learn something that is complex or new. But also challenge yourself to include other types of learning-whether that includes attending a trade show (a great way to ensure a weekend getaway!) or reading an article.
Regardless of where you are in your career, learning is valuable. It's valuable to you as a practitioner and it is valuable to your business. Your clients are relying on you to understand all things new and relevant. Take time out for learning.
Linda Makins is partner in Makins Ladna Design Inc., a company based in Mississauga, Ontario, specializing in development and commercial design. She is currently president of Interior Designers of Canada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.