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Level 12

What do you do for professional education/learning/training?

Every two years our organization polls its employees on a variety of topics related to the work place. The previous two rounds Education/Training has been at the top of the issues, and it came in at a close second this time around. The continuing issue with it is that our true IT people in the department (its confusing, its a hospital) are staffed incredibly lean, and getting the time and money to go do a boot camp is pretty much impossible at this point. Our IT Department currently has 19 people in it. 3 staff and a manager for the help desk, and 2 staff and a manager/engineer for the infrastructure. 2 staff are general IT Analysts that do a lot of the report writing for the EMR systems. The other 10 people are staff and a manager for the EMR support and training. Back onto topic now.

The issue at hand is getting the time and the money to get any actual training and education. I am new in my role of Network Analyst, just finishing up my first year in January. I do not even have my CCNA or any Cisco certifications at all. The organization took at shot on giving me the job and I am doing my best to live up to their expectations, and I personally feel that getting some progress made on at least getting a Cisco certification would be a good foot to put forward on this. Problem is as many of you know, going to a bootcamp for a Cisco certification is expensive on both time and budget. I actually went to my department Director and presented him with what it would cost for time and money to go to a CCNA boot camp. Let's just say it's a good thing I work in a hospital because I think he almost needed to go visit the ER when he looked at the cost. It was more then the company gave him for a training budget for the entire department for the entire year.

At this point I am looking for something that I would be able to do more on a piece by piece basis. So the big question I have for everyone is, what do you do for your training and education needs? I have looked into a few things, most of them being online. I have checked out online programs through colleges, but they are time and budget expensive most of the time, and not really open to a single class here and there. I have looked into the CBT Nuggets and that one looks like it could be a good route. I have also looked into vendor specific training and education programs. There are so many options out there I am pretty much the dog stuck between two food bowls and can't chose one so I am starving to death lol.

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4 Replies

  1. A company must budget for each employee to receive adequate training for their responsibilities.  Relying on employees training themselves on their own, at their own expense, is a path to either losing employees, or having staff that cannot support the products for which they are responsible.
  2. Plan on budgeting $6000 (in 2016 U.S. dollars) per employee per class for off-site training.  This includes travel (air fare, car rental), lodging, class fees/tuition/books/lab time.
  3. Plan on sending each employee to two classes per year minimum until they are up to your minimum desired level of competency.
  4. Certifications are often, but not always, to a company's benefit:
    1. Certifications can prove an employee has tested and passed industry standards.
    2. Certs also provide a level of confidence to employees.  "I can DO this!"
    3. Training for certifications can also provide skills necessary to:
      1. More quickly recognize errors and correct them
      2. Identify shortcomings in vendors recommended configurations
      3. Providing better designs, configurations, resilience, higher up time, etc.
    4. Certifications can be used by employees to:
      1. Justify position and/or pay increases
      2. Prove their value and competence to competitors; the employee may be hired away from a company that doesn't keep competitive wages, titles, or work environment/conditions.

I realize this is more "ideal world" than "real world" for many of us.  I've seen corporate budgets for training decrease drastically over the last twenty years:

  • Companies may fear losing employees to whom training budget has been provided.  Once you know how to do more things, you may feel you're entitled to higher compensation or better conditions; if your current company won't provide them, you might look elsewhere.  The loss to your current company, if you leave, can be recouped by requiring employees to sign an agreement that states if they leave within twelve months of receiving company-paid-for-training, they must reimburse the company for all expenses.  If they leave between twelve and twenty-four months, they need only reimburse for the class fees.  And if they leave after twenty-four months, no reimbursement is required because the industry changes so quickly their new skills are likely obsolete and require new training.
  • Some organizations have reduced training budgets, but do not want to reduce training results, therefore they will not pay travel expenses.  This MAY work if a remote e-training solution is available, AND if it works reliably 100% of the time.
    • I've seen far too many 5-day remote training courses disrupted by remote students not being able to see or hear the presentation, or not being able to speak or participate by asking questions in real time due to technology problems with their current location or with the training facility's remote access.
    • Worse, I've seen e-labs fail, and the entire class sits around waiting for remote technical support to discover what's gone wrong and then try to fix it.
    • I've also seen cases where lab books have not shipped to the student's location in a timely manner, resulting in them not having access to the information necessary to participate in labs.
  • Employers must understand that off-site in-person training has many benefits, and is worth the additional expense for travel, food, and lodging:
    • Training while being away from work reduces interruptions by coworkers who are accustomed to doing drive-by's on an Analyst's cube, expecting real-time service.  This plays heck with participating in online training.  Less critical issues should not be forwarded to the employee who is out being trained.
    • Attending in-person gives a student access to:
      • Making important connections with other students attending the class, which can pay off in the future for troubleshooting issues and getting help from a new friend on a new problem.
      • Interacting with the instructor before class, during lunch, and after class.  Some of the most important lessons can be learned during these informal and friendly periods spent at a restaurant sharing work experiences.
      • Contacts made this way end up being part of an employees network of resources, and make it possible to get the word out about new positions available to a wider range of people.

Your goals have now become:

  • Have sufficient staff so you can take vacation time without being interrupted by work crises.  That also covers time for training.
  • Budget $12,000 per employee per year to get them to the level of competency needed to properly do their job.  Yes, it's nice to hire people who know what they're doing.  But eventually their skills will be obsolete.  Unless you're going to let them go and hire newly trained & certified people, who will come with a big new learning curve for your environment, you must do right by them and get them trained.
  • Be like every successful organization that does this.  Hospitals require health care providers to participate in Continuing Medical Education programs.  Law Enforcement the same.  Legal, Finance, Accounting . . .  all organizations that want to succeed do this.
  • Not to force staff to spend their personal at-home time training.  That's their time to release the stresses of the day, to reunite with a spouse, to provide great examples for children, to contribute and volunteer with their community.

OK.  Now we come to YOUR situation--that worst case where you can't do what is required because you don't know how.  And your organization won't pay for your training.    While you're searching for a new employer (hint, hint), you've got lots of resources if you're creative:

  • Get your boss to allocate two hours every week during business hours where you're allowed to train yourself.  Resources include everything on the Internet:
  • Convince your company to allocate a half day every week to you, for working on a new project that is of interest to you, which will benefit the company.  Successful companies like Google have done this and seen wonderful improvements in services and morale.  Why not your company, too?

Finally, don't throw your hands up in frustration. Instead, learn how to get your way with your boss and with management by reading this piece I provided to Thwack a while back.  Once you understand the idea, and can see how it applies to everything from hardware to training to company cars to bigger monitors and more Orion modules, you'll be in the driver's seat again:   A Stratagem For Obtaining Funding For Your Projects

Then come back here and tell us what changes you made in your life and in your job that worked well.  Now go get 'em!

I think a lot of the issues with getting training right now is coming from the company itself and not so much the department leadership. When I started at this company in the help desk 5 years ago they had an education reimbursement program in place where you could get like $800 a year reimbursed for education that was not paid for by the company. I was working on my Bachelors degree in Business Information Systems at the time so I applied for it. I was doing this before I took the job at the company. The response I got from HR just floored me, my manager, and my department director. The response was "This is not a required program for your job position, so it is not covered." Someone in IT getting their Bachelor degree in Business Information Systems and apparently that doesn't apply to having a job in IT. I applied for it again the next year and got the exact same response. At that point I was pretty, what is the politically correct business term here, miffed and went to my manager and director about it. They went back to HR with pitchforks I guess and I got both years worth that year.

To have to go through that kind of fight for $800 just basically crushed my spirit when it comes to trying to get any more paid training from this place honestly. The other issue with the last two years now is we went from Meditech to Epic. The company blew the lid, the sides, and the bottom out of their training budget (millions of dollars) for the last two years as a result of that. They have even cut some of their own throats in cutting education and reimbursements this last year. A senior director was denied reimbursement on a program they took. So at least the pain is being shared, but it still sucks. They have switched a lot of their class based stuff to computer based learning instead as well to try and save money on it.

I have looked at the CBT Nuggets pretty closely. I have also been doing a bit on some of the free stuff that is out there like the Microsoft Virtual Academy. There is only so much that I can get through those kind of things though. At some point money has to be spent to go for the actual certifications and tests. I have a feeling that is where the real fight will start honestly. There seems to be a mentality around here that because we are IT people, we are already smart and know everything about everything and don't really need to go learn anything else because we already know it.

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Like you, my organization has moved to EPIC.  I've learned (and leveraged) the fact that if you say something is required for EPIC, it gets funded.


Better still is if you can get EPIC staff (AT EPIC) to say a particular piece of training or level of expertise or certification is required for properly supporting their product.

If that won't happen, seriously take the information here and run with it:     A Stratagem For Obtaining Funding For Your Projects

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And don't forget to grin and vote here: 

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