Pittsburgh Technical Council

Get Employers to Pick Up Your Education Tab

Get Employers to Pick Up Your Education Tab

Article Published: July 29, 2014

How To Get Employers to Pick Up Your Education Tab

** by Peter DeVries

We live in a time when constant education is a necessity.  Employees need to evolve or risk falling behind the skill level of their peers—both inside and outside their current workplace.  Our firm, Destiny Solutions, recently commissioned a research firm to interview 200 employers from across North America to get a sense of how crucial they thought continuing education was for employees.  The researchers found that 70 percent of business leaders said employees need continuous learning just to keep up with their jobs.  They also found that 95 percent of businesses had systems in place to financially support an employee’s continuing education.

In all cases, an employee’s training can benefit the parent company if handled appropriately.  Before our company pays for additional education, whether it is a certificate, degree, or any other form of course work, we ask employees to send us a small proposal that answers the following questions: 

“How will this training affect your current projects or role?”

Just-in-time training is much more valuable than generalized training, but the catch is that if you don’t immediately use it, the retention of that information diminishes rapidly over time.  Employers ask this question because we want to know how you’ll use what you learned earlier this morning on corporate projects this afternoon.  

“Is this training part of a larger learning goal (i.e. a certification or degree)?”

All managers evaluate whether or not a proposal is opportunistic or strategic.  Certificates are more targeted toward specific skills.  Degrees give a more of well-rounded feel of subject matter.  We view courses and certificates as a tactical solution to close skill gaps. We look at degrees or graduate work as a guide to the employees targeted career path. Both outcomes are valuable to support, but there must be synergy between the employee’s desires and the company’s needs. 

“Can you describe how you researched this course or education provider to demonstrate that the content is useful and cost effective?”

This turns the tables on employees, pushing them to make the business case back to managers.  Instead of us rationalizing if this particular program is a sound investment, we want to hear from the employee why this course is a good fit and this provider offers the best value.   

“Are you willing to present to your peers a summary of the key learning outcomes from this training?”

Typically there are always two practical outcomes from training that immediately benefit the company regardless of the specific request.  The first is that training allows work experience to be paired with best practices or formal methodology.  It permits the employee to match what they are doing with what they should be doing based on a body of knowledge.  The second is that the employee can come back to the firm and present one of three outcomes: 

1.     “Watch what I learned how to do”

2.     “I’ve validated how we are doing things”

3.     “We need to change what we are doing”

Organizations grow based on its employees.  Beyond that, every good manager knows that refinement of skills for even a single employee can make good financial sense.  Being proactive and showing a manager you’ve put some strategic thought into a program will increase your chances for success.  

**Peter DeVries is chief operating officer at Destiny Solutions in Toronto, ON.  Destiny Solutions creates software for leading higher education institutions that helps them to successfully attract, manage and maintain their non-traditional students.  

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