The Farming Approach to Professional Development & Education

Since a small team of like-minded individuals formed the Silverback Security Academy in 2016 I’ve been looking carefully at the demand for workshop based programmes and I’ve listened to lots of people within the security industry tell me about their personal pathways towards professional development.

Two factors emerge time and again: duration of study and cost. It seems that most people want to be educated quickly and as cheaply as possible. As a former soldier I completely understand the desire for ‘maximum effect for minimum effort’ and there are some short duration vocational courses that are ‘quick wins’ for filling a specific knowledge gap. But short duration vocational courses don’t often provide the opportunity for ‘critical thinking’ or contribute much towards academic development, though they certainly play a part in the overall professional development of an individual. 

I often refer to professional development as an arable farming system whereby the land needs to be prepared before the seed can be sewn. It is possible to short cut the preparation phase but the overall result is bound to be affected in some way, and many farmers will tell you that some effort applied up front will pay off later in the process. I know many farmers here in sunny Herefordshire, so I’ve heard this a thousand times! 

The seed needs to be sewn at a specific time of the year, this means the preparation work needs to be completed in good time and any delay with planting could be detrimental to the health of the crop. But it’s not a done deal once the seed is in the ground, now the land has to be irrigated during the summer and a whole variety of other activities to ensure the growing crops remain healthy. But you’ll notice that farmers don’t leave it all to the last minute like some people do just before they submit a study assignment. 

Once the crop is ready for harvest there’s a flurry of activity to bring in the harvest before the changing weather can take a negative toll on the yield. You can imagine the activities that are required to process the crop further and help it on the way to market, but in short you can see there is no quick fix or short cut to harvest. It requires a series of activities, carried out in a specific sequence, underpinned by application of effort to yield a useful crop.  

I think professional education is very similar in approach and like my grandfather used to say: ‘if its worth doing, its worth doing right’. 

I honestly believe that developing knowledge requires effort and an inquisitive mind, but it requires the learner to do something each day.