Meet four IEMA members who have upgraded their membership to boost their professional development and gain recognition
At a time when organisations of all kinds require their employees to justify their salary and prove their credentials, recognition from employers, colleagues and clients has perhaps never been more important to environment professionals.
Little wonder then, that when IEMA members were recently asked why they stay with the Institute, the overwhelming majority (88%) said that their main motivation was to gain and retain a sense of professional recognition.
Whether that recognition comes from the demonstration of specialist qualifications, evidence of time spent developing knowledge or an understanding of an individual’s years of vocational experience, being recognised for their knowledge and skills is clearly very important to members.
The level of personal commitment to improving knowledge and skills is demonstrated by the fact that, during 2011, more than 91% of IEMA members undertook some kind of professional development.
This was one of the headline findings from the most recent IEMA practitioners’ survey, which also revealed that the three most popular ways of keeping knowledge and skills up to date was by attending events or conferences, reading key materials and attending a continuing professional development workshop.
The Institute also found that more than seven in 10 of those who said that they spent time on such activities did so because they wanted to develop their knowledge and skills, either to progress in their current role or gain a new position.
According to another IEMA poll, more than one-quarter of members (28%) are currently planning to upgrade their membership, 10% of whom want to upgrade as soon as possible and a further 37% who are aiming to step up within the next six months.
Something for everyone
Any level of IEMA membership contributes to being recognised as a dedicated environment practitioner, although it is the professional levels of membership – Associate, Full, Chartered Environmentalist and Fellow – that carry the most gravitas.
Internationally recognised, those holding Associate (AIEMA) and higher status can confidently demonstrate that their knowledge and experience of environmental issues has been independently approved by IEMA. The demand for AIEMA in particular explains why, since the revision of the Associate standard and launch of the online Associate entry exam in May of this year, more than 1,000 people have downloaded the application form.
Those Associate members seeking Full membership can achieve the necessary knowledge and understanding by completing the IEMA Diploma in Sustainable Business Practice, which was launched in March 2011 and is aimed at members who are working in a business environment. Assignments, for example, are often based on work-related practices.
Voice of experience
The “upgrade your membership” pages of the Institute’s website (lexisurl.com/iema13365) receive in excess of 1,000 hits each month, so it is clear that IEMA members are as ambitious as they are dedicated to their profession.
Many of those who are aiming for Associate or Full membership are possibly wondering what happens during an upgrade process: How does the Associate entry exam work? What does it take to achieve Full membership?
To answer some of those queries, four IEMA members who have recently upgraded – two to AIEMA (Dominic Freestone, a waste regulatory specialist at the Environment Agency, and Eric Steltzer, an energy policy analyst for the State of New Hampshire in the US) and two to Full membership (David Forbes, who works as an environment and sustainability development manager in the oil and gas industry, and Caroline Thomson, who works for water treatment chemicals specialist Biochemica UK) – offer an insight into the process of achieving their level of membership and how upgrading has enhanced their professional recognition.
For information on upgrading your membership, visit lexisurl.com/iema13365 or call us on +44 (0)1522 540069 to discuss your options.
Dominic Freestone, AIEMA – waste regulatory specialist, Environment Agency
What was your main motivation for achieving Associate?
For me it is a stepping stone to Full and Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv), which are my ultimate goals. However, I needed to get through Associate first as my environmental knowledge was, given that I am a waste specialist, quite narrow. I was advised to look at the Associate criteria. I was able to use this as a guide to where I needed to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.
How did you prepare and study for the Associate entry exam?
As I was mainly addressing the gaps in my knowledge, I’d say my preparation was very targeted. For example, my knowledge of sustainable development was quite weak as that had never been a part of my job. My main source of study was the IEMA handbook, which I borrowed.
What was your overall impression of the new Associate entry exam?
It worked really well. Working through the system was a piece of cake as it’s obviously been very well thought through. However, the questions were challenging. IEMA recommends you allow 15 minutes per question but I set my kitchen timer for 13 minutes to allow some time at the end to revisit my answers, as there really isn’t any time to waste.
Has achieving AIEMA status helped you to become more professionally recognised?
It’s certainly nice to be recognised as officially being at a certain level as I deal with a lot of consultants who are also Associates. Plus, I’d say that I have more confidence now that I have improved my knowledge and this will help for when I go for Full and CEnv in the next 12 months.
Eric Steltzer, AIEMA – energy policy analyst for the State of New Hampshire, USA
Why was Associate – via the entry exam – right for you?
I am in the process of moving to the UK from the US and I wanted to gain a professional qualification that would demonstrate the skills I have. A lot of the jobseeking I’ve done has featured jobs looking for IEMA certification, so I knew it would be a good way to go.
How did you prepare for your upgrade?
It was a little of refreshing my current knowledge and plugging the gaps in what I didn’t know, but what was really helpful for me was being able to look at the sample exam that was on the IEMA website. I did spend a number of hours studying at the library in preparation for the exam. I also looked at the Associate standard and I was able to get the IEMA handbook through a local library here, which helped direct my study.
What worked well about the exam from your experience?
I went online to have a look at the exam and I could see that I’d be able to go back and forth between the questions. I like to start with the questions I know really well first and come back to the others later in the exam period, so knowing that the exam had that capability was great. What I also really liked is that you could do it whenever you had the time and capability, and being able to get the results so quickly. That helped my preparations for moving to the UK. And being an international member didn’t seem to cause any issue at all.
Do you feel as though you have more professional recognition now that you are an AIEMA?
I feel like I do, yes. I think a lot of places are looking for Associate or Full membership.
Caroline Thomson, MIEMA – works at Biochemica UK
What was your motivation for undertaking the IEMA Diploma?
Ultimately, I wanted to achieve Full membership. I also want to be as qualified and well informed in my field as possible, so that I would have greater confidence to drive change and to help steer my company towards sustainability.
Having achieved the Diploma, do you feel more confident?
Certainly, it gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. I know now that when I talk to people about environmental or sustainability issues they listen. I just feel more in control and more able to help the business move in the right direction.
You’ve also recently achieved Full membership of IEMA. Do you feel that the Diploma helped you to get there?
I had wanted to become a Full member for a few years, but I didn’t want to make the attempt too early in my career and risk failing. By achieving the Diploma I knew that I had covered all that a Full member was required to understand. The interview was very nerve-wracking but I knew I had the knowledge and the experience to back up my answers and I even took my Diploma with me to remind myself that I could do it!
Do you have more professional recognition now you are a Full member?
Well, just by reading the environmentalist I see that more people each month are gaining their membership and doing the Diploma, which is encouraging. Some of the consultants and specialists I have worked with are Full members and it’s a good feeling to know that I can count myself among them.
David Forbes, MIEMA – environment and sustainability development manager, oil and gas industry
Why did you choose to do the IEMA Diploma course?
Just to achieve a better general understanding and learn more about environmental programmes. It was a personal decision as I was in a role where I was working for an oil and gas company and I found myself seeking opportunities to improve the company and improve myself.
How did you find the course and what do you feel you achieved?
I enjoyed the course and thought the tutor – Robin Bloodworth – was excellent. The workload was definitely busy but interesting, with a lot to take in. I’d describe it as stimulating. The Diploma gave me a broader perspective and removed the “tunnel vision” aspect that you can sometimes have. It made me think more strategically and in a much more balanced way. It gives you exposure to issues that you don’t think are relevant to what you do, but when you take a look you start to understand other angles. The Diploma has particularly helped me with issues like climate change adaptation as before I didn’t really know what it meant.
Do you have more professional recognition now that you are a Full member?
I’m not an academic person, so for me achieving Full was great. But the thing I’ve enjoyed most about the whole process is the exposure to wider environmental programmes and gaining the ability to consider many different angles around environment and sustainability. And if an external person comes into our organisation and thinks “what gives that guy the right to be in that position”, now I can say “well I’m a Full member of IEMA”, which I think holds some credibility, and my organisation can say that they have someone trained and qualified looking after things.