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Looking back at 10 years of IPA Qualifications

Looking back at 10 years of IPA Qualifications
Former President Stephen Woodford reflects on an extraordinary 10 years of IPA Qualifications in his evening celebration speech.

This is the perfect way to celebrate 10 years of IPA qualifications programme.

As one ex-Prez to the current one (Ian Priest), I must confess to Presidential agenda-envy.

I think Ian has done a brilliant job and I am sure his ADAPT agenda will live on and continue to influence the industry. Finishing the ADAPT programme on Talent is so appropriate as it is the central core of our success as an industry.

Also it is a job that is never finished, not just because we have a continuous flow of new and, hopefully, more diverse talent joining us, but the more you invest, the more you increase skills, the more value you create and therefore the more you can invest, so it is a virtuous upward spiral, rather than a circle.

About 12 years ago when I knew I was going to be the IPA President, I thought about what I wanted to contribute to the industry in my two-year term.

I very quickly came to the idea of professional qualifications.

I rather pompously said in my inaugural speech as President in 2003, “The health of any profession is in large part measured by how well it passes on its collective knowledge and expertise to the next generations.”

On that basis, I felt at that time that we had plenty of room for improvement .

But in truth it was inspired by my own experience as an account manager, when I joined an agency after two years as a junior client in a large fmcg marketing department.

I knew next to nothing about the art and craft involved in making advertising.

I was an unmitigated disaster.

I realised that my peers had learnt largely on the job by copying their peers and bosses, and they had at least two years on me.

So 20 years later when I became President, I remembered this car crash induction and thought we could do better at preparing people for their careers and accelerating their learning.

At that time we were also concerned about the increasing specialisation and fragmentation of the comms industry. We wanted people to be able to get a sense of the broad waterfront of the industry, whatever agency and specialisation they were interested in.

10 years after that we have done much better than any of us involved then could have dreamt of.

The response from people like all of you here today, and the many thousands like you in the UK and now around the world, shows we are starting to meet the huge desire to learn and to show that learning has been acquired through qualifications.

The numbers are amazing:

  • To date 6790 people in the UK have passed the IPA Foundation Certificate, with a record number of 1,000 people taking the most recent exam in February. 
  • Over 10,300 people have passed an IPA qualification in the UK.
  • Over the last two years, nearly 1,000 candidates across Europe, the Middle East and Asia have taken part in the IPA Foundation Certificate. 
  • Which means over 11,000 people worldwide have passed an IPA qualification. 
  • BBDO as a network deserve special mention. This year over 80 candidates from BBDO MENA will be completing the IPA Eff Test.
  • The Communications Council in Australia have just launched the IPA Foundation Certificate in their market, with the Eff Test, LegRegs and Commercial Certificates due to follow next year.
  • Patrick Mills (Director of Professional Development) tells me by the end of this year, the numbers will be close to 12,000 people in more that 30 countries, so we hopefully we will be celebrating 20,000 participants before 2020
  • This all helps us to keep raising the bar on the quality and breadth of what the IPA offers, building the capability and expertise of the UK industry, so we continue to be a global leader.

So with over 10,000 people having sat a qualification, and given the IPA member agencies employ about 27,000 people, I am going to take a guess that we will have a few people here in the room who’ve completed a course.

I’m going to guess at around 10, given the age and job profile.

Let’s have a show of hands (large number of hands raised!)

I am so proud of what the IPA has been able to do as the entrepreneurial catalyst, taking the upfront risk in developing the courses and at a time when online learning was at the frontier of professional education.

It was a big leap of faith that, to quote Field of Dreams, one of my favourite guilty pleasure films; "If we build it, they will come".

The IPA continues to bring together the best thinkers in agencies, clients, business schools and academia to prepare, teach and mark the broadest range of qualifications in the world.

In fact the only range of qualifications in the world, which is why they are being exported so widely. They are a flagship for the UK industry and for our commitment to CPD.

A big thanks to all of you and all the other people in IPA agencies who mentor, who design content, who manage careers and personal development, send people on the courses and support their learning.

Thanks for making them such as success and here’s to 20,000 by 2020!

Stephen Woodford is a former IPA President and current Lexis Chairman.

Learn more about our recent Talent Adaptathon and the IPA CPD programme.

Last updated 09/10/2014

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