Risk management education needs to be within a structured framework and add value Carolyn Halpin writes.

The education of risk practitioners in the UK public sector has been an ongoing tale of evolution and professional development. While that evolution has been driven to some extent by survival instincts, as always, there comes a time to recognise that education issues should be considered within a structured framework that evidences adding value to an organisation and ensures that risk management professionals remain abreast of their dynamic discipline.

Historically, public sector risk practitioners were professionals within insurance, finance, health and safety and audit. They began their new role with support from ALARM, the national forum for risk management in the public sector, which has as its cornerstone the sharing of best practice and the development of the profession. The introduction of the ALARM national conference (now in its 12th year) saw one of the biggest public sector education opportunities develop and go from strength to strength. This excellent event is the ideal occasion for busy risk practitioners to bring themselves up to speed with best practice, new evolving risks and developments.

Training and education

Having recognised that many people saw the need for a formal qualification, ALARM secured the licence for the Managing Risk course developed by the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) and the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (IOSH). Our education committee then shaped the product to meet the public sector's requirements. It was initially used by organisations to give new practitioners an insight into risk management principles, but is now used significantly to support in-house risk management training programmes and provide external accreditation of such training. It has effectively grown from a base-line qualification for risk practitioners into a tool in the risk practitioners' armoury to support their own organisations' training programme.

ALARM also recognised some time ago that there was a significant gap between the Managing Risk in the Public Sector course and the more formal risk management qualifications provided by the IRM, and several leading universities. We have therefore agreed a programme with the IRM to improve the educational opportunities available to all risk practitioners working in the public sector.

The initial step is to specifically support the public sector unit of the IRM's associate examination, while moving to create more of a synergy between our education delivery programme and this unit. The mutual benefits include more opportunities for those students specialising in public sector to gain experience and understanding, ultimately resulting in greater numbers of qualified professionals entering the public sector arena.

The most recent and exciting development is ALARM's support of the new Certificate of Risk Management (CRM), due to be launched by the IRM at the ALARM conference. This is a significant step toward filling the gap between base-line educational courses and the Associate exams.

Our recognition that such a gap needed to be filled, coupled with the IRM's excellent provision of formal qualifications, culminated in the strategic decision to support this qualification rather than to compete with it. We see the arrangement as a partnership, with the IRM acknowledging ALARM's outstanding ability to provide softer education opportunities, through conferences, seminars and its professional development opportunities.

ALARM is launching its own continuous professional development framework for risk practitioners at this year's conference on 4-6 July, with the CRM being an entry level step to achieving full CPD status as registered risk practitioner. And through the ALARM/IRM co-ordinated launch, the ALARM conference will see the birth of a new formalised education framework, designed to provide a recognised qualification in risk management, transferable to all sectors of the risk community.

The task is not yet done, and neither organisation will be resting on its laurels. We at ALARM are looking to develop the soft skills for risk managers in communication, influencing skills and presentation and delivery accomplishments. The IRM is committed to working alongside ALARM in ensuring the widest portfolio of education opportunities possible for risk practitioners, mutually resourced and achieved.

My own involvement in ALARM stems from a thirst for education and development as a newly-appointed risk manager some 10 years ago from which came my involvement in the design and delivery of regional education opportunities to work at national level, as a speaker, as a member of the education and training committee and now as ALARM's current chairman. I am hopeful that at the end of my term of office, I will be allowed to pursue my aspirations to further develop a formal qualification framework, with a view to ensuring that all needs and tastes are met, and all stakeholders are engaged.

Do consider attending our national conference at Manchester where some 300 delegates have an opportunity to benefit from over 50 workshops and lectures. It will also be an opportunity to receive more information about both the CRM and registered risk practitioner status.

Caroline Halpin is chairman of ALARM, whose aims are to enable public sector organisations to develop and implement successful risk management practice and promote education, training and research. For more information, visit www.alarm-uk.com