Ann Halloran has run a successful training consultancy business (In-Tuition) since 1989. Based in the west of Ireland, she was the first person in Ireland to achieve Chartered Membership of the CIPD through the Experience Assessment route in 2011.
I left University with a Combined Science Degree in the UK in 1979 and my first job was as an Executive Officer with British Telecom, which was a semi state body at that time. I worked in a busy HR office and loved it – and it became the start of an exciting and enjoyable career.
Having Irish parents, I always had a yearning to move to Ireland. When I was offered a HR management role in Galway I jumped at the opportunity. I gained great HR/IR experience, especially when the company went into liquidation and I had to manage the redundancy process for the employees.
This was followed by a year working for a firm of consultants in Dublin, and during that time completed one year of a HR Diploma in the College of Industrial Relations. Following that I moved back to Galway, working in HR management for the first medical device multinational in the area during its start up phase, which was a fabulous opportunity.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a HR programme of study running in the west of Ireland at that time, so I was not able to continue with the HR diploma.
I moved from HR into the learning and development area at work, and after seven years I decided to set up my own training consultancy business. I focused on assisting companies with learning and development strategy, the design of training materials and systems and the delivery of leadership and management training.
I had been fortunate to be employed in a HR management role for a total of ten years, and to run a successful training consultancy business for 21 years. Yet my lack of a formal HR qualification had become a weak point in my resume in recent times.
I was faced with a dilemma – I wanted to achieve recognition, but I did not want to go back and spend time studying in an area where I felt I already had a lot of practical experience and knowledge. I am constantly learning, and my current focus was on developing the skills needed to build an online business presence.
I am a firm believer that new entrants into the world of HR and learning and development obtain formal qualifications. However, there is a diminishing group of people like myself for whom opportunities to attend courses simply weren’t there when we were starting out in our career, there was not the same emphasis on certification, and the benefits of studying for a HR qualification would be limited at this stage.
Experience Assessment route
When the Experience Assessment route opened up in the CIPD I was delighted; here at last was the opportunity to get my experience and skills formally recognised. I had been a member of the CIPD for the past 30 years, and had an affiliate status up until now.
The CIPD Experience Assessment Route was not a walk in the park – which I was perfectly fine with – and it is not something that people should undertake lightly.
An overview of the process
The first step was a discussion with the CIPD over the phone to see if I met the basic requirements for entry.
Once I passed this stage, I then had to complete three documents:
A detailed Impact Study, indicating what impact I had made in organisations in terms of HR/learning and development over the past three-four years.
An Experience Assessment, which looked for evidence that I have the necessary skills, knowledge and goals to support a HR/learning and development career.
A Case Study, which told the story of a business going through a crisis. As a newly appointed HR Manager, I had to give my recommendations for dealing with the situation. I was given a number of days to read the background information, but had to prepare a detailed response within a 48 hour period.
In addition to these documents, I had to find two people who could provide me with a detailed reference – they had to complete a document similar in length to the Impact Report.
Once all the documentation was completed, I then had a three hour professional discussion with a CIPD representative who questioned me on the documentation and on my HR career.
The whole process took six months. It was demanding, thorough and very professional in approach – and I had no complaints whatsoever.
The process in detail
I started the process by checking the criteria for professional membership on the CIPD website, and then applied for a free diagnostic interview. The interview was held over the phone with a CIPD representative and happened shortly after my initial enquiry. It was held at an agreed time and took approximately half an hour.
The representative asked me a series of questions about my experience to help me determine if I had the basic criteria for chartered membership and the process was also explained to me. We both agreed that I should continue, so she emailed me a registration form along with details of the terms and conditions.
I emailed this straight back with the payment, although you are allowed 30 days to pay. This was a significant decision for me; I knew that if I was not successful, I would lose the fee – and it was in the region of €2000.
I decided that if I had to undertake a course of study, there would also be fees etc. so in comparison this amount was acceptable to me.
3 February 2011
I received confirmation of payment. They offered additional services if I wanted help in processing the application; as this was an extra cost I declined and decided to 'go it alone'.
11 February 2011
I was given access to the online tool – and eight weeks to complete it from the date of the email.
It sounded like a long time but in fact I only finished the process at the end of March with one day to go! I worked on the two reports over time, adding to and editing them as necessary. Once I submitted them there was no going back! I believe I spent about four net days compiling and editing the reports.
As well as the reports, I had to complete a case study. I was given nine days (if I remember correctly) to review background information on the case, and then given a 48 hour period to download the case study and submit a report. I had read that it took on average eight hours to complete the report. Mine took a lot longer – I wrote too much and had to cut it down!
I had to be careful that once I started the case study process, I was able to complete it within the time allowed.
In addition, I had to ask two people to provide a reference. It turned out that they had to complete the same Impact Report form that I completed. This took them some time, and luckily the two people I asked were OK with that. One was a work colleague and the other was a client.
Most of my questions were answered through the online help menu, but I did call the CIPD EA Centre on occasion and the staff were very helpful with my queries.
During this eight week period, my Professional Discussion was also arranged.
30 March 2011
I submitted all my documents online.
11 May 2011
The three hour Professional discussion was held in an agreed location. The assessor asked structured questions regarding my submission.
The submission was based on evidence from the past two-three years. The discussion allowed me to demonstrate my skills and experience drawing from what I had learned over my entire career, spanning 30 years.
15 June 2011
I received email confirmation that I had passed! They gave me a detailed report on the strengths of my application, and pointed out areas in which I could develop.
The process did look for a high standard and you need to have a broad base of experience and skills to be successful.
Overall I found the process professional, thorough, well explained and organised – and would strongly recommend it if you are looking for recognition in your HR career.