icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an 

ongoing web column by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

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Professionalism is what you want

About the role of professional associations in a lifelong learning economy

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2013). Professionalism is what you want. About the role of professional associations in a lifelong learning economy. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 2.1 (March).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2013). Professionalism is what you want. About the role of professional associations in a lifelong learning economy. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 2.1 (March).

24 March 2013 - There is a moment in which we know we have changed our mind about something or someone but still we cannot find the right words (or the bravery) to share the new thought. I have never seriously investigated why, but I suppose the reason of such reticence derives from a certain embarrassment - or what Donald Schon called the loss of the stable state. From that point on, new learning is possible.

In 2010 I published and shared some reflections about the advantages of being a member of professional associations, as I had done before many times but... I felt that was the last (it was not, actually)! As a practitioner who had had a tortuous, mixed and matched education excursus, always studying and working, from the age of 20 on, it is true that for almost 30 years I have found in several professional associations a stable point of reference, to learn and to share new practices or discuss new problems - beyond my own tendency to anticipate changes, to criticise the status quo and the stiffness of some formal academic approaches.

Then I realised I was simply going on romanticising the whole matter, while the evidence was that things have changed. Professional associations have become national or international shops for qualifications, social clubs, window-shops for universities, free pools for recruiters hunting volunteers, advertising channels for businesses and good customers for catering companies. All useful functions but unfortunately these have very little to do with professionalism and the advancement of learning and collective knowledge.

Finally last week I think I found the words to say what I think, starting from the lifelong learning corner.

In a forum about the toughness of the current job market for young engineers without experience, I said that "while the distinction between 'professionals' and 'paraprofessionals' or 'technicians' still makes sense with respect to many fields of declarative knowledge, at the beginning of one's career, and not just in engineering, it is absolute non-sense for experienced people, let’s say over 45. These are often rejected (or not even called for interviews) because even if they may have the pertinent experience required for a position they miss the.... juicy titles of the qualifications that employers have asked as mandatory criteria for shortlisting”.

In that, professional associations, including the IET I am a proud member of, fail to recognise there is a major issue in the job market: decades after its conception, the idea of 'lifelong learning' is still quite abstract and nobody knows how to measure it in practical terms.

The same professional registration process used by the IET and other organisations is still designed around an idea that you, as a qualified labour market resource, are part of a large organisations and you can show your professionalism referring to your position in an accountability diagram: you will report to a hierarchical boss (or you are very well connected with a friend of friends who have hierarchical bosses) that will act as your supporter. You will include copy of your qualifications and demonstrate that you have all the skills and competences required. But the Institution cannot progress your application if you do not have a supporter as that would mean you are either a cheater or a whistleblower (whistleblowers have notoriously no friends).

Sarcasm aside, we work in a knowledge economy with technologies changing very quickly. The smart professionals and paraprofessionals all together learn on the job and are very often entrepreneur and self employed. Missing a measure for lifelong learning is something that has devastating long term impact on the very idea of 'professionalism' and can erode trust in formal education and qualifications.

Post scriptum (2018): the certification and professional registration processes used by the IET and other organisations in the Engineering and ICT sectors have been substantially improved or changed since I wrote this article, thanks to the slow but decisive development and implementation of several standards of competence, such as the SFIA standard (Skills Framework for the Information Age) and the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC).