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Professionalism in Occupations...
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Dilemmas and Problems of the Professional...
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Following a task force recommendation to Council in 1979, the Continuing Education Committee was requested to develop a paper to address three issues:
— the meaning of professionalism.
— what practical difference registration makes in the life of a member.
— what does the Professional Association do for me?
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION
The confusion relating to the meaning of professionalism is not surprising. The definitions of a "a professional", "a profession" and "professionalism" are vague and ill-defined. One thing, however, is clear. Contemporary usage of the words "profession", "professional" and professionalism" indicate a perception that prestige and status are indicated by these words.
Nearly every occupational group applies these words to itself and strives to emulate the actions and characteristics of "the professions".
The concepts of professionalism do have importance and produce positive results if there is a clear understanding of the full meaning.
Therefore, definitions need to be set out so that the members entering the profession and the Association may have guidelines for their early understanding of the concepts. This is the threshold from which "their professionalism" can develop.
PROFESSIONALISM AS A QUALITY CONTROL SYSTEM
It is APEGGA's view that professionalism can best be defined as a "quality control" system. In addition to the professional system there are other systems whereby services of occupational groups are maintained above certain pre-determined minimum quality levels (see the following section on Quality Control Systems).
The quality control system resulting from professionalism elicits the peak of responsibility and discipline from the individual. The essence of a profession, self-regulation, is recognized by the governments who, by virtue of their confidence in "the profession," have vested regulation of professional matters in "the profession".
This self-regulating aspect is the essential hallmark of the professional quality control system and is probably why other occupational groups strive to emulate the actions and characteristics of "the professions".
The professional system reflects a commitment to decentralization of authority based on acceptance of responsibility. It protects the individual practitioner who accepts the responsibility of self-governance. It protects the society to which the individual professional provides services and it encourages pride of workmanship, productivity, individual responsibility, self-discipline, ethical standards and concern for society and the public interest.
QUALITY CONTROL SYSTEMS
Control systems can be classified as formal or informal. These general classifications can be divided further into government, professional association, employer, unions and voluntary associations or societies. Thus, there are the following systems:
— Formally set up by an Act of the Legislature
— Informally set up
In the FORMAL system an Act is passed by government vesting the administration of the control system for an occupational group directly in government.
Under governmental administration, it is the government which sets entry standards, standards for competence, ethical practice, and carries out enforcement and discipline.
Alternatively, in a relatively few cases, the administration of the control system is entrusted to the occupational group. The government can then transfer to that group the legal right to certify and license as well as the power to punish those who practice the profession without a license or who do so unethically or incompetently. The "professional association" is also given the right to determine what the words qualified, ethical and competent mean. This is the chain of events which created APEGGA.
Membership in the professional association is mandatory if a person wishes to practice the Profession, either as an employee or in the professional-client mode.
Each member must maintain his/her membership in the Professional Association by paying a yearly fee for a license to practice. It is from such fees that APEGGA and other professional associations derive their income for governing their constituent professions.
In the INFORMAL administration system where the services of occupational groups are not controlled by Acts of Government, quality control systems still operate under the administration of various agencies.
The hiring and dismissal practices of employers, based on expected and actual job performance, is a quality control system which operates to maintain and to improve the services of the total labour force. Employers can, and do, discipline their employees, with the most severe punishment for incompetent work being termination of employment.
It is normal for unions to require that potential union members meet stated proficiency criteria before they will accept them as members. Often this will be a certificate issued by the government or a certificate issued by an educational institution. In some cases, the certificate is issued by the union itself. Responsible unions also make serious efforts to improve the quality of service provided by members and discipline their own members for unethical or incompetent practice. The meaning of ethical and competent is set by the union.
There are many occupations which can be practised by anyone. No certificate is required by law: data processing, personnel work, economics, public relations, management and administration work, etc.
Those who practice these occupations frequently join together to form a voluntary society or association of members. That association of members normally will require specified credentials in order to become a member and will urge members to adhere to stipulated standards of practice and codes of ethics. Such associations cannot exercise the same control over members as a Professional Association does due to the fact that membership in the voluntary association is not mandatory in order to "practice the profession".1
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