How to secure employer funding for a part time course
This year, there has been a surge in applications to colleges for part time courses by people who are in employment. This makes sense, as those who are working are bolstering their chances of holding on to their position amid increased competition for jobs.
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 what industry you are in, what direction your position is likely to go in within that industry and whether, in fact you want to remain there at all. 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 third level funding to avoid any mismanagement 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 meaning you have to illustrate your commitment to it by paying the total or annual cost yourself initially. 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’? (You may be hoping to get promoted on the back of a further qualification but there may not be a route to promotion in your current role, which is, after all, what you are currently paid to do) or ‘How will you manage your college assignments/exams and your work commitments’? Or ‘How do you propose to manage the logistics of getting to and from college without impacting on your daily work schedule’? 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 (usually no longer than an A4 page) 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.
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.
Even after submitting these documents, your request may have to be considered by a group of managers and you may be asked to make yourself available for further questions from them – particularly if it is an expensive course such as an MBA.
Unfortunately, your request may be declined 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. Ask if you will be rewarded in any capacity on completion of the course: if not monetarily, perhaps you could secure some other coveted benefit?
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