By Hugo GuerraNovember 29, 2017

Should Your Employer Fund Your Education? Here’s How (and Why!) You Should Ask

Whether you are in engineering, the wider tech sector, or the corporate world in general, continuing your education is essential to remaining valuable as an asset and relevant within your industry.

It can also open doors to more interesting roles, better and more lucrative compensation packages, and a higher rate of success in professional interviews.

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail:

  • It can increase your earning potential. A more qualified candidate can apply for more exclusive positions with highly reputed companies. This can mean not only a better compensation package, but also opportunities to grow within the company or easily transition to another company when the time is right.
  • It can help in job interviews. Increasing your domain expertise can provide easy talking points, relevant anecdotes, and tangible accomplishments, lending further credence to your position as an industry expert and a master of your knowledge domain. In addition to expertise, seeking continuing education can also showcase your determination and discipline. Both of these, after all, are essential for bettering yourself, especially if done in your free time. Someone who has gone to classes at night or on the weekend while working during the day demonstrates that they have the grit to further their expertise.
  • It makes you a more esteemed contributor. Continuing education expands your skill set and keeps you aware of current best practices. This can make you a more effective contributor, can help you gain positive visibility in the eyes of decision-makers, and open up doors to more interesting opportunities within your area (such as leading projects, assessing the suitability of potential new technologies, etc.). All of the above can help make you indispensable in the eyes of your company, which can allow you to ask for a higher salary and benefits, be more easily considered for professional growth, and be allowed to lead more interesting projects.

“Ok, so continuing education is important. But it can be expensive as well!”

Oftentimes, companies are willing to help fund all or part of your continuing education. Many people don’t realize that providing opportunities for continuing education is in a company’s best interest, for many reasons. Let’s break these down as well:

  • It helps retain top talent. This allows for opportunities for employees to continue to grow their knowledge and positively impact business operations. High-performing employees have a passion for the work, and want to remain abreast of all new developments and practices. Smart companies know this, and provide opportunities to nurture this passion so that top performers can continue to make a positive impact on the business.
  • It increases the value added per employee. More knowledgeable contributors translate to better execution and shorter completion timelines. This added value can also help introduce gradual process optimizations throughout the business, via the dissemination of current knowledge and best practices.
  • It helps attract new employees. Providing opportunities for continuing education can also be used as positive copy for marketing, talent recruitment, and public relations purposes. Because of these reasons, many companies have processes already in place for handling such requests, along with necessary budget and time allocations.

“Ok, so continuing education is great, my job may be able to help fund it, and we seem to be making a lot of lists. How do I actually make it happen?”

Well, for starters…

  • Come in prepared. If you start the conversation with a half-baked idea or a vague request, any potential excitement from your employer may go to waste while you go do your due diligence. Do your homework first. Find multiple options, if possible, and present them along with a cost breakdown. Ask around, and see if the company has sponsored continuing education in the past. Check all those seemingly obnoxious HR documents you received on your first day to see if there is any mention of continuing education.
  • Address any potential concerns, preferably before they are raised by your employer. They might wonder if you’ll be able to perform while also taking classes. They might be concerned about the cost involved, or how they themselves will be perceived when bringing up your request to their line manager. Put yourself in their shoes, think of counterpoints for any potential objections, and try to make things as easy as possible for them.

“That’s great, but can you give me some examples of objections and how to address them?”

  • “We can’t afford it at this time.” To help counter this, you can talk about the cost of hiring and onboarding a new employee with these specific qualifications, and then contrast that with the cost and benefits of training you, an already proven and productive team member.
  • “We need you here full time.” Research evening and weekend options for continuing education as much as possible. Draw up a clear plan that shows how you will maintain your current level of productivity, and present this along with your request. Reassure your employer that you will address this venture with the same efficiency with which you handle your day-to-day.
  • “We don’t usually do that kind of thing.” Make a case for starting! Show the potential benefits and added business value that would come from continuing your education.

This brings us to our next point…

  • Show how it can add business value for your company. This is the most important one, really. After all, why would a business care about paying for your education if they don’t think it will benefit them? At the end of the day, anyone in a position to make decisions is going to care about the bottom line. If you can show that continuing your education will add direct, measurable value to the business (aka business value), then it begins to make quite a bit of sense. It will at least get the conversation going. Here are some examples:
    • “Moving to X technology in a gradual manner over N period of time can help us reduce overall ship size by Y and increase performance by Z.”
    • “Combined with my existing experience, I can be the subject matter expert and lead for the design and deployment of this project.”
    • “I can mentor other engineers in order to disseminate my updated knowledge of current best practices.”
  • Know your audience. If you are the third member of a new startup, they may not yet have enough funding to pay for your education in full. If they need all hands on deck for the next 30 days due to a given project, you may not be able to attend that full-time course beginning next week. So tailor your request to your environment, and look for part-time options outside of regular business hours if possible, to ensure higher chances of success.
  • Make sure it’s relevant. If you do front-end work for an electric company, they likely won’t be willing to fund your upcoming VR course. Make sure that there is (or can be) a connection between your desired education and your company’s operations. Maybe you can make a case for introducing Java, or React, or .NET, but make sure that what you are requesting can be perceived as germane to the trajectory of your company.

To summarize, keep these things in mind and bring up your request on a future one-on-one. Talk about the importance of continuing education and remaining current with the whims and tides of the industry. Offer to draft up an action plan that shows an estimated timeline for the implementation of your learnings. Drop the mic, and treat yourself to some ice cream.

Looking for tech-focused continuing education courses for you or your employees? See our full curriculum for Code 500: Continuing Education »