Closing the Right Gap in Professional Preparation

When professions want to increase the requirements for educational preparation, develop specialties or recognize advanced practice, what is the perceived gap they are trying to fill? Before they grab a solution someone else has tried, I just wish they would think critically and creatively about what they need to do.

Are they simply grabbing a used future from another profession because they envy the respect and recognition an advanced degree seems to provide?  In the last decade I have had more than one health professions association acknowledge this perception is behind the appeal of the doctoral degree as the entry level degree.

Some workforce experts have strong evidence that what many marketplaces value most is a cheaper way to get the job done. These fields should be open to maximizing the use of less educated practitioners and technicians who work under the supervision of a few highly trained individuals. But I’ve seen few choose this evolutionary path.  

Or does the marketplace now reward different knowledge and skills? Is it simply easier for the profession to layer on more years of education or a new credential rather than to refocus well established curriculum and credentialing processes? It’s the rare and courageous institution and association willing to ignore a bloated body of knowledge and prepare people to learn how to learn and problem solve in the field.

Sometimes a profession really does need to evolve an advanced practice. While these individuals may have a broader knowledge base and competencies, their distinguishing capability is complex decision making skills. Often experience is the only sure route to these skills.  

And when employers are asked what they value, what they want is individuals who exhibit leadership as well as job proficiency. This is more akin to what Peter Senge called personal mastery many years ago. Personal mastery involves responsibility, vision, initiative and a discipline for continued learning and innovation. Associations might be better suited to meeting this need than educational institutions.

I find it noble that so many professions are restless about the best way to educate and train for their work. I do believe professional associations should lead in shaping the future of their professions. I just want them to engage in these change initiatives with the clarity and courage these decisions deserve.