Grow your career with the BRCGS Professional Programme

There are many ways that you can enhance your professional development from attending conferences, completing short courses through to reading regular food safety articles and participating in online communities. But have you ever wanted to recognised for your professional development? Well now you can!  In this 'Food Safety Chat', listen in to Robert Moss from BRCGS discuss the value of becoming a recognised BRCGS Professional.

In this episode we discuss:

Podcast Transcription

Amanda:  Welcome, everybody, to today's podcast for Food Safety Chat. With me today I have got Robert Moss from BRCGS. Hi, Rob. How are you going?

Rob:  Yeah, I'm doing really well. Thank you. I'm doing really well. How are you?

Amanda:  I'm all good. Looking at Rob, I've got a video of Rob on at the moment and it's a lovely sunny day in London which is very different to what it is here in Australia, so I'm kind of wishing I was in London today because it looks a lot warmer than what it is here.

Rob:  Yes. It's one of those very rare days where actually the sun has chosen to come out for 10 minutes. We got nothing but grey skies and rain for the last week. So yeah, hoping this sticks around for the rest of the day. It'll be nice, make a nice change.

Amanda:  It'll be nice if it's there for the week if it can.

Rob:  Yeah.

Introducing Robert Moss

Amanda: Anyway, so what we're going to talk about today, Rob heads up the BRCGS Professional Programme. We're going to dive into that and just learn a bit more about it. It comes off kind of the back of what we've been talking about in another one of our podcasts through HACCP chat where we've just finished doing a professional development 10-part series on how to progress through the different levels in becoming an expert food safety professional. This kind of works in quite well with what we've just finished off in that area.

Before we get started, Rob, can you please give us a bit of your background?

Rob:  Yeah, of course. So I am the BRCGS professional manager, just working at BRCGS in London. I've been here for about seven or eight months now. I joined in November. Previously I was working in membership development for one of the largest professional bodies in the world working in construction and real estate. So I've very much been in that kind of membership space. So I've come to BRCGS with the intention of really growing the professional scheme and making it a truly global professional membership scheme.

In terms of my day-to-day role I pretty much look after everything from the management of the scheme in terms of day-to-day operations, the development of the scheme. So looking at how we can make it more robust in the future, what elements we bring in, what to potentially remove. And also working with our larger businesses and working with organizations like retailers to try and drive adoption of the scheme and really try and grow it as much as possible.

What is the BRCGS Professional Programme?

Amanda:  Thanks for that. So can you just explain to people who are not aware what is the BRC Professional programme or scheme?

Rob:  Yeah, so BRCGS professional is a global recognition scheme. It's kind of have two aspects to it, so in one respect it is focused around a kind of a personal qualification or personal recognition that you get from completing a number of courses. Now these courses come from a variety of areas, they come from BRCGS standards, it's courses from areas and hazard risk management, so things like HACCP. And it also encompasses skills around product safety management.

In addition to that, it's a professional community, so it's a collection of individuals. We've now got over 9,000 individuals enrolled into the program globally and we've got coming up to 200 individuals who have completed the program in full. And so it's a real community where individuals have the chance to network and share their expertise and learn from others. And it's also a really good opportunity for individuals to demonstrate continuing professional development, so it's not purely just about the qualification itself, that actually once you get qualified you have the opportunity to continually develop yourself throughout your career.

So it's got a lot of different aspects to it. And it's really kind of multifaceted recognition scheme, and I think it's a really good opportunity for a lot of people.

Amanda:  What was the trigger for BRCGS to go down this track?

Improving your food safety skills

Rob:  Yeah, so I think it was looking at industry and looking at key areas in where we thought skills were potentially lacking or could be improved. Now at the highest level there's obviously kind of a lot of key global challenges and key global themes that are the reason that organizations like BRCGS exist, and fundamentally there's lots of issues in the world that are causing lots of risk within manufacturing and supply chains.

Fundamentally in order to address that risk we need to move beyond standards and compliance to make sure that we have highly trained individuals working with industry that can operate to those standards, and it is really geared around professionalizing fundamentally food safety but obviously now the professional scheme branched out much wider than food safety and covering all of our standards.

Amanda:  Okay, so we've had a little bit of a shift then from as opposed to having the certification standards that BRCGS has in all the different industries, now the focus is on certifying the people working within those systems.

Rob: Yeah, exactly. I suppose it's not only about having individuals that can implement the standards but the people can really contribute thoroughly to addressing those risks and contribute to protecting brands and consumers. I think that the standards are definitely one thing, and yes, we need to have very solid implementation of the standard, actually it's about taking that kind of next step and going above and beyond that.

Do I need to be attached to a BRCGS certified site?

Amanda:  To be part of this particular scheme or this program do you have to be attached to a BRCGS certified site?

Rob:  Yes, that is the case at the moment. So in order to join you do have to have a BRCGS site code. And the reason for that is BRCGS professional is a site benefit, and so the kind of the enrolment and membership fee of the scheme is included as part of the site code.

One of my areas that I am looking at for the future is how we can grow that because obviously we're talking about these high level challenges, the scheme will inevitably broaden out to be much wider than those just working in BRCGS sites. So at the moment we are exploring potential models and how we can open up and make it accessible to anyone that might be involved with BRCGS at any stage. But at the moment, yeah, it's currently a benefit for BRCGS sites.

Amanda: Because I know there's a lot of those industry associations who run similar schemes for their members, so whether you're a part of the institute of food science and technology or the international food safety association, they'll all have similar professional development programs, and especially around this whole continuing education piece.

Rob:  Yeah.

Starting food safety qualifications

Amanda:  From BRCGS perspective, what do people need to do to get started in the program? What's the base level of qualification that is expected?

Rob:  Yeah, so the BRCGS professional is a really great starting point for anyone looking at looking to kind of start their career development. The reason being because it doesn't actually have any formal prerequisites. So providing you're working in a site, anyone can enrol on the scheme and you can complete the courses and go through the scheme kind of as you see fit. So unlike some other sort of more high level qualifications it doesn't really have anything that would prevent anyone from joining at the start.

Amanda: Yeah, so that's a good idea, because I know there are a lot of others, even obviously to be an auditor, so I'm an international food safety auditor and I have to have auditing qualifications but I also have to have that bachelor's degree in food science, food tech, environmental, health or something like that. So that's good for those people who want to get in on that ground level, you don't have to be a QA manager.

Rob:  Exactly.

Amanda:  You can be a process worker if that's the case.

Rob:  Yeah, exactly. And I think one of the things that we're noticing is that actually we're getting a lot of people come through the scheme that aren't necessarily even in technical roles, anyone as I said, it's more people that generally are working within businesses that might need to have an awareness of BRC and BRCGS and they're actually looking at going through the scheme so that everyone's kind of speaking the same language and that everyone understands how the technical people are working. So yeah, it's kind of a lot broader in that respect.

Components of the BRCGS Professionals Scheme

Amanda:  And what type of courses, what's the sort of the base level to get started?

Rob: Yeah, okay, so the scheme is comprised of three separate areas in which you need to complete training in each of those areas in order to get qualified. So the first area is BRCGS standards, so within the standard section you need to complete a course on the BRCGS standard of your choice. Now it can either be a two-day training on understanding the requirements for a site or it could be a three-day auditor training or it could even be a five-day lead auditor, for example. So you could attend any one of those depending on kind of where you're at in your career.

The next section is from hazard and risk management, so there's a selection of courses and you have to attend one course from our hazard and risk management section. That could either be a HACCP, a HARA or a HARPC, that will vary depending on where you are in the world, or it could be the FSPCA PCQI course.

Amanda:  Of course, yep, which is what we have for our US-based colleagues.

Rob:  Exactly, yes.

Amanda:  Also actually I'm an FSPCA trainer as well, HACCP Mentor does deliver that training.

Rob:  Yeah.

Amanda: So that's good that that's part of it. Along with that, the two-day HACCP training in which we're affiliated with the International HACCP Alliance to deliver that two-day course.

Product Safety Management

Rob: Yes. That's probably a really good point for your listeners to know, and I'll come back to that in a minute after I explain a bit about the third section. So the third section is around product safety management, so we have courses around root cause analysis, risk assessment, vulnerability assessment for food fraud, validation, verification and internal auditor. And from that section you have to attend any three of those courses, so again, you kind of pick and choose based on which courses you think are most relevant to you.

Amanda:  Are they BRC courses, those ones?

Rob: Yeah, so those courses are the courses that's written by BRCGS and need to be delivered by either BRCGS or one of our approved training partners. Now the reason I mentioned about the HACCP course and the FSPCA, so courses from the standards element and courses from the product safety management element they need to be delivered either by the BRCGS academy or one of our approved training providers meaning they're approved BRCGS courses.

Now courses from the middle section, the hazard and risk management, those courses can actually be delivered by any provider. So they don't need to be delivered by BRCGS or an ATP. So it's a real opportunity for anyone to kind of they may already even have these courses and they may have done them in the past and that's another thing with professional as well, if you've completed any of these elements previously they can be attributed to the BRCGS Professional Programme - you don't need to start again from scratch.

Amanda:  Oh, that's good.

Rob:  Yeah, so if you have a HACCP, for example, then great news, because you're already a third of the way there.

Timeframe to complete required training

Amanda:  Yeah, that is good news for those people who are thinking, "I've got to start again?" What's your average time frame for people to get through the three phases?

Rob:  It really, really varies. So we don't actually put any specific time frames on it, we appreciate that everyone kind of works differently. So I think to limit it would potentially be at risk of excluding some people. We have some people that go through fast track training, so both BRCGS academy and our ATP's often run kind of fast track events that allow individuals to get trained in kind of just over a week. Then on the other end of the spectrum we have some people that have taken, you know, the program started two years ago and some people have only just qualified now, having taken two years to go through it, so it's completely flexible.

I think generally a good time frame to look at is around about a year because it's really important to be able to attend some training, kind of go back to the workplace and be able to implement that and actually embed what you've learned. And that kind of taking longer than a year, potentially can kind of delays your ability to be able to implement it and retain what you've learned. But, again, everyone learns in different ways so it will vary completely.

Amanda:  And once people have gone through the program and they've done the initial mandatory courses, what is the next requirement? Is there any additional to maintain this status?

Understanding Professional Progress Points

Rob:  Yeah, absolutely. And that kind of touches nicely on the point we mentioned earlier on about it being a continuing professional development program. So in order for an individual to retain their professional status they have to complete CPD over a two-year period.

Now we have got lots of acronyms at BRCGS and we call it PPP, and it's professional progress points. So our professional progress points are made up of a range of different activities, so it could be anything from kind of self-learning like reading a magazine or it could be peer-to-peer learning in the workplace, ranging to full industry courses. Now we have a list, and each of these activities has a certain amount of points that are allocated to doing the activity.

So over the course of a two-year period an individual will have to accrue 20 PPP points to be able to renew their certification. And those points they're not just focused around BRCGS activities, it can be absolutely anything in industry. And we think it's a really good way of actually being able to tailor your own professional development to any kind of existing learning and development program that your company might already have in place, so we're not saying that you have to go and continue to learn and do things that are kind of different to what you might already have planned.

Amanda:  HACCP Mentor is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and can issue CEUs equivalent for use as your PPP points.

Okay, that's good too. And I think especially for a lot of our listeners actually are associated with an industry association and they will have CPD programs set up through that system. So really you only have to do the CPD once but it's actually being classified or qualified by two different states which is good, which, again, saves money, saves time. But the key thing being that as long as you come out of a better individual with more knowledge and more skills, that all drive the whole food safety message forward not just for your company but also for your community moving forward.

Rob:  Yep, exactly that, exactly that.

Enrolling in the BRCGS Professional Programme

Amanda:  So what's the best way, Rob, for people to get involved if they do have BRC certification? So we understand you have to have BRC certification within your site. For those people who may not be aware, what's their first step they need to take?

Rob: Yeah, of course, so absolutely the first step anyone should do to look at joining the scheme is to enrol. Because it is a site benefit it's completely free to enrol, so there's no kind of cost to any individual to do that. Now the way you can do that is by going on to the BRCGS website and there's a section on the top of the website that says training, and within training we have a separate little landing page for BRCGS professional. Now once you get there, there is an online application form so you have to kind of fill out your name, your company, your email address and your site code. That comes to us and then we enrol you.

Now why that's so important is because when we enrol you we will send you a welcome pack. This welcome pack is the kind of BRCGS professional bible, it contains absolutely everything you possibly need to know about the scheme, it tells you everything you need to know about how you can find suitable courses, how you might be able to locate potential training providers, and it contains all the kind of frequently asked questions if there's anything you might be unsure about. So that is absolutely the first step.

And going from there you'll kind of then be prompted to potentially look at learning providers and then potentially booking onto your first courses. So that's definitely the easiest way.

Elements of the BRCGS Community

Amanda:  Now that's good that it doesn't cost people to start in the program. Tell me, Rob, you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast around there's this ... you're a part of this community of other BRCGS professionals, so when you say you're part of that community what does that actually mean? What does that look like? Is there a Facebook group or is it just about going to conferences, or what's that actually look like?

Rob:  So it's a real mix. We obviously do have some global conferences that we run yearly, so at the moment we have food safety Europe and food safety Americas, but in addition to that I'm really trying to kind of create this real kind of both physical and virtual community to sit behind the scheme. So a part of that is we do have reasonably active LinkedIn groups that individuals can join and connect with other like-minded professionals. And this year one of the things we've started to do is to host BRCGS professional networking events and virtual networking events. So we're just starting off with our first one in the UK to try and connect individuals from the scheme so they can get together and connect and share expertise and learn from each other.

I think kind of a lot of the scheme over the last year has very much about being around BRCGS directing information towards our professionals, now actually we really want to provide the platform for professionals to get together and learn from each other with BRCGS acting as the facilitator. So that's very much going to be something that in addition to the conferences, in addition to the social media groups, looking to kind of roll out this kind of this virtual networking community globally.

Amanda:  So if you're not a BRCGS professional, can anybody join those LinkedIn groups?

Rob: Yeah, absolutely. There's no barriers to anyone joining those groups. So if you're potentially interested and want to find out more or maybe you want to connect with a professional and understand what it's meant for them, then absolutely, yeah, you can join. If you can search BRCGS professional on LinkedIn, for example, you should be able to find it.

Learn more with our Resources

Amanda:  Excellent. Well, thank you very much, Rob, for taking time out of your day to help demystify the BRCGS Professional Programme. For any of our listeners, if you are interested, like I said the show notes will be below this episode.

If you're also looking for training in any of those three silos, one, two or three, HACCP Mentor has been signed off to train as an ATP for BRCGS, so we can deliver those courses around the standards and also those ones that were in phase three, around the product risk management standards, internal auditing and validation, verification, food fraud, all of those ones in addition to the HACCP and PCQI which we spoke about before. You can get more information on all of that, again, below the show notes.

Anything you want to mention, Rob, before we wrap it up for today?

Rob:  I don't think so. I hope from this conversation I look forward to hearing from lots of new professionals that would like to join the scheme. So thank you for taking the time.

I think it's a really, really good opportunity actually for individuals in your region. We do have a number of professionals in Australia and New Zealand, I think we're currently about six or seven with a few hundred that have enrolled which does provide a really good platform to create this physical network of professionals, but with it kind of being very early stages it's a really fantastic opportunity for individuals to get involved because of the various touch points they can have with BRCGS and providing opportunities to grow with the scheme, and as it grows into something much bigger and better there will potentially be opportunities for our kind of the first group professionals that come through to be more closely involved in the future.

Amanda:  Oh, that sounds great. And just with our US listeners, how many have you got in the US at the moment? Do you know off the top of your head?

Rob:  Very good question. Well, I think we have around about 40 or so individuals that have qualified in full from the US with 6 or 700 or so enrolled.

Amanda:  And going through it.

Rob:  Yeah.

Amanda:  So your main area at these stage is out of Europe where you have your main sign ups.

Rob:  Yeah, so our main area as of the moment is Europe, predominantly driven by the UK. Also seconded by North America, so the US and Canada. Then I think our next biggest regions are countries like South America and India, I think are the next biggest after that. But we're global, yeah, so we've got coming up 9,000 individuals enrolled from 130 different countries. And I was looking at the numbers yesterday and we've now got individuals enrolled from over 5,000 different sites in the world.

Amanda:  Oh, that's quite an extensive thing.

Rob:  Yeah, exactly.

Amanda:  So you should be able to find someone near you if you're looking to network with just people in your own area who are going through the program as well, so there'll be somebody near you.

Rob:  Exactly that, exactly that.

Amanda:  So thank you very much again, Rob. I wish you an excellent rest of the day.

Rob:  You too.

Amanda:  And enjoy that sun while it's out.

Rob: I really will, I really will. Thanks very much and have a good day.

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