Andy, what professional qualifications do you have?

In addition to holding the Transport Planning Professional qualification, I'm a Fellow of both the Chartered Institute of Transport and the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation.

How important have your qualifications been to you as your career has developed?

More than I might have imagined. Colleagues, employers, clients and other stakeholders rightly judge you on how you apply your skills and energy to achieve successful outcomes and it is through that that professional trust is built. Although professional qualifications are not a replacement for this trust, they provide reassurance to those who don't yet know you and they help provide the competences that underpin your skills and expertise.

What importance do Atkins place on professional qualifications in the development of the careers of your transport planners?

Across the whole of the Atkins Group, staff at all levels are encouraged to become professionally qualified. For many years those in our transport planning business found that whilst a combination of their academic training and practical experience was deserving of professional recognition, the choices available to them did not provide a good fit for their aspirations or a natural home for transport planners. The overall project experience that we provided was good but it often didn't match what was needed for any particular professional qualification. So it was difficult for us to push the Atkins Group's ambitions about professional qualification to our staff. However, with the arrival of the TPP qualification, we now have a qualification relevant to our day-to-day work and which is aligned to our training programmes. The TPP provides a realistic goal for transport planners to pursue.

How important do you think professional recognition will be for younger transport planners as they develop their careers?

Its increasingly important; in the world of consultancy, clients are paying for the competency and technical excellence that an organisation can bring to the table. Sure, there are other important attributes that are also needed, such as innovation, enthusiasm and political awareness. But it's straightforward competence that is the core of what a consultant needs to be able to offer first of all - and that's a mix of ability, knowledge and experience. So we recognise that having professionally qualified staff, not just academically qualified staff, will always be important to us - and therefore important to our employees.

Why do Atkins encourage the younger members of your staff to follow the TPS Professional Development Scheme?

One of the advantages of a structured training scheme is that it encourages the acquisition of a breadth of experience. We need up-and-coming staff with this breadth of experience to take on the responsibility of project management. In our profession, even relatively small projects often tend to be multi-faceted.

By adopting the TPS Professional Development Scheme, we can set our graduates on a path that will lead towards the TPP qualification and they know that it's recognised across the profession. It's also a great advantage, in these difficult economic times with so much uncertainty in employment, to have a scheme that is common throughout the profession.

For many years prior to the introduction of the TPS scheme and TPP, we had our own Atkins Graduate Training Programme. It's served us well - and still does - but it was never able to provide anything other than an in-house qualification. Linking our in-house scheme to the TPP qualification has ensured that our earlier graduates are also able to link their previous efforts and achievements so that they are now on that same pathway towards, or have already achieved, the TPP qualification.

Why do you encourage others to work towards the TPP qualification? What do you see as the main benefits?

I would not be surprised to find that, in a few years time, public and private sector clients are stipulating that consultant's project managers and people in other key roles must be TPP qualified. We need to be prepared for when that starts happening.

From Atkins perspective, amongst the benefits of TPP are that it will enable us to sell our capabilities more easily. I also believe that it will improve the structure of training in the first few years of any career, giving more focus to what experience individuals need to acquire to obtain the qualification. That will not be appropriate for everybody - some people will prefer to specialise in particular niche areas of what we do and will not aspire to a TPP qualification. But it will encourage people to think more about where they are heading - and that must be a good thing.


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