Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Partners in Skill Development? Tuition Reimbursement is Old News

“You don’t go to school once in a lifetime; you are in school all of your life. That’s why they call graduation ‘commencement’ – it’s just the beginning.” Harvey MacKay author of “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”

In surveys from such experts as Forrester’s and others on what employees consider most important today, continuing education ranks high as one of the benefits they are seeking. Most large companies, and many smaller companies, have a tuition reimbursement program in their “benefit package”. Usually there are strict guidelines and rules about how this is administered: an employee must have been on the job a certain period of time before he/she can qualify, the employee must be registered in a degree program, certain grade point averages must be met, or the employee must promise to stay with the company for a certain period of time after completing the course – or must reimburse the company.

Offering the typical tuition reimbursement package at your company is just the equivalent of “keeping up with the Joneses”, and is usually a defensive tool to allow the company to be competitive and attract good applicants. You could be a true “employer of choice” and attract the best candidates by going one step further. Don’t just offer tuition reimbursement. Go for more. Provide educational opportunities to employees that will enhance their existing skills and give them new skills. Help them do their jobs better. Assist them with planning their career growth. Partner with your employees to promote their success at their jobs.

This doesn’t only benefit the employees, there’s something in it for businesses too. When the job market is tight, finding the right person for some of your open positions may seem nearly impossible. There may very well be someone in your organization that, with a little time and effort, could become that right person. So how do you do it? How do you create a Database expert? Programmer? Webmaster? Web Designer? Easy. Have you ever heard the phrase “distance learning”?

According to the Arizona Distance Learning Association, “In the corporate side of training, America is currently faced with upgrading the training of 50 million American workers. Each year corporations look to the use of technology and distance education to provide that training and continuing education for their workers. This saves them millions of dollars each year using distance learning to train employees more effectively and more efficiently than with conventional methods.”

How can you accomplish this? Distance learning has many forms. It could mean establishing a video and CD library. On-line courses are proliferating and you can take advantage of them by offering them in your workplace. This allows you, as an employer, to actively participate with your employees in your mutual success. By scheduling time at work to complete these courses you are giving the employees the chance to acquire more skills, while you still maintain some quality control over the course selection and the training process.

If you are ready to give it a try, but you are not sure where to start, go on-line. Here are some resources for on-line technical self-study courses: Smart Planet Computing & Internet has over 650 self-study courses in Office, Java, NetWare, Windows, CGI, Notes, Windows NT, FrontPage, Explorer, and other technology subjects.

If a degree program is the right thing for some of your employees, let them get their degree online at their desktop – from a prestigious and accredited college or university. On company time? Maybe yes, maybe no. But allowing them to use company computers at scheduled times may afford some people opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have. One very prestigious on-line university located in Phoenix, Arizona, University of Phoenix Online offers degree programs in Undergraduate as well as Graduate studies. They have students worldwide who rave about the excellent education they received without ever stepping on the campus property!

Conferences and seminars often offer continuing education units, but it can be hard to fit these into a busy schedule, and travel adds to the time and expense. Help them to schedule in a few hours of learning time during working hours each month to attend conferences and seminars on-line.

And don’t be fooled into believing that employees only want to learn JavaScript or get their MBA. Getting a degree is not the only goal of employees today. Some want to learn how to write better correspondence or improve their communication skills. Or learn about business etiquette in Germany, Japan, or Mexico. Managers might want to learn to improve their Telesales Departments, or keep current on legal employment issues like sexual harassment or discrimination. Sales professionals can always benefit from learning “21st Century Selling”, or “3 Simple Steps to More Product Sales”. These and literally hundreds of other “Self-Study” courses are available on-line.

The choice is yours. Be just another company in the pack that is snapping at the heels of the “star-quality job seekers”. Or be a true “employer of choice” with the best of the best wanting to work for your company and just waiting for a position to open up.

Terri Robinson, President – Robinson & Associates, a woman-owned recruiting company that specializes in sales and marketing professionals. Terri has been published in Arizona Women’s News, Arizona Reporter Online News, and interviewed by Recruiting Trends’ Newsletter for their Extreme Recruiting column. Surf to, call 602-233-8410, or E-mail

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