Funding – getting the boss on your side

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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Not so long ago, employers were happy to at least contribute, if not cover the full cost of a part time course for an employee. These days, the story is different. It s hard to secure money for a day-long course, much less for a year long one. It is possible however, and some employers are still willing to support the acquisition of further qualifications for staff for the long-term good of the company.

One of the first things you should do is research the options available for you. Be assured, your employer will want to know how this course will help meet business needs so keep that question to the forefront of your mind while you research alternatives. This should be carried out with consideration to the industry you are in, the direction your position is likely to go in within that industry, and whether you want to commit your midterm future to the company.

Once you have a shortlist of courses that you would like to do, you should then have an initial chat with your employer about their educational assistance policy for course funding to avoid any misunderstanding of expectations. They may be willing to fund one of your chosen courses over another for example, so it s important to have a number of options available. They may not have a budget for education assistance at all in which case you will have to thinking about funding it entirely by yourself. Indeed, some companies will only pay their contribution towards the course after you have completed it.

You will also need to outline your case for funding succinctly and pre-empt any questions such as: how will it benefit your current role Think carefully; you may be hoping to get promoted on the back of a further qualification but is that what management want to hear They do, after all, need to see the benefits of a course to what are currently paid to do.
Other typical questions include how will you manage your study and essay time, as well travelling to and from college, along with your work commitments These are real challenges and you would do well to talk to someone who has already juggled a job, college, family and some glimmer of a social life. Nevertheless, plenty of people have successfully achieved this, so it can be done with some planning and very finely tuned time-management skills.

If your employer is willing to consider your case after that, you will probably be asked to compose a document detailing the benefits of completing this course to a) the company and b) yourself. This document should be brief, but very clear on what the actual benefits will be. Be prepared to re-write it a couple of times to make sure you are conveying just the right message with no unnecessary waffle. Essentially, your employer is looking for a projected return on investment from you.
Don t forget to investigate the benefits for you too; after all, you ll be the one putting the work in! Ask if you will be rewarded in any capacity on completion of the course: if not monetarily, perhaps by moving you into a role that more suits your long term career ambitions.

You may also be asked to sign an agreement whereby you concede to paying for any exam re-sits yourself and/or to reimburse any funding you received to your employer if you voluntarily leave your job within approximately two years of completing the course. These agreements are standard practice and ensure fairness to both parties.

Unfortunately, your request may be denied regardless of how well you have sold it. Employers are in difficult circumstances now and try to remember not to take a refusal for funding personally. Have your fallback position ready: ask them if the situation can be reviewed in six month s or a year s time.

This article was kindly contributed by Monica Murphy, Training Manager at Sisk & Co

Frank Bolger

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