How "learning-friendly" is your company?

Does your company have a solid tuition reimbursement program to help your IT staff receive the continuing education they need for career growth? Here's an example of "best practices" and a quiz to determine if your company is "learning-friendly."

Stagnating IT skills is one of the most common causes of turnover. Does your company have a solid tuition reimbursement program to help your IT staff receive the continuing education they need for career growth? Take a look at this example of "best practices," and take a quick quiz to determine if your company is "learning-friendly."
A tuition reimbursement program is one of the top come-ons that Denver-based telecom U S WEST uses in staff recruitment. The program, called PATHWAYS to the Future, was recently cited as a "best practice in the industry” by U.S. Vice President Al Gore. "He has been a proponent of this program for some time," said Wendy Bartlett, a PR spokesperson for U S WEST and member of the PATHWAYS Board that oversees the company's tuition reimbursement program. It’s available to all 50,000 U S WEST employees in 14 states who have more than six months of service in the company.

Bartlett pointed to PATHWAYS' success in increasing employees':

  • learning ability
  • communication skills
  • team participation
  • self-confidence
  • initiative
  • risk-taking ability
  • competitive technical skills

"Even though they don't have to take classes related to telecommunications through this program, the majority of employees do," Bartlett said. "Tuition reimbursement has proven to be an excellent benefit for our employees," she said. "It allows them to pursue adult education while working full time."

Although employees at U S WEST are not given leave time during the workday to pursue classes or extra training, PATHWAYS does provide:
  • Full and unlimited tuition reimbursement for employees who want to pursue a specific undergraduate degree (not necessarily related to their jobs).
  • Reimbursement of the cost of books after the class is completed.
  • Full tuition up to $2,100 for courses not related to a degree, taken through accredited colleges or other educational institutions.
  • Essential skills training, which providesunlimited tuition to employees who are learning essential skills that the company needs to fill critical jobs. The company identifies where there are job shortages and offers a set of classes employees can take in order to become qualified for the job.
  • An online training program that offers degrees for those who want to become technicians. This program is the first online associate’s degree in telecommunications and was developed through an alliance between telecommunications unions and telcos.
  • Career and skills assessment services. Counselors from local universities consult with U S WEST employees on what courses they should take if they are pursuing a particular interest or skill.

The PATHWAYS program at U S WEST was negotiated by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, is governed by a union-company board, and is administered by a third-party organization, Councilfor Adults and Experiential Learning (CAEL) . "The union sees this as a job-security type measure," Bartlett said. "In addition to this program, employees also receive on-the-job training."
On July 18, Qwest Communications International and U S WEST announced a merger. The new company, which retains the Qwest name, will have approximately 64,000 employees. For more information click here .ITCAP provides college credit for IT certifications. Through the ITCAP program, students receive college credit for successfully completing coursework leading to industry vendor certification such as Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), Certified Novell Engineer (CNE), Certified Lotus Professional (CLP), and Project Management Institute/Project Management Professional (PMI/PMP) certification. College credit is only given for courses offered at authorized ITCAP centers (AICs). This opens up new possibilities for student employees to apply for company tuition reimbursement funds to pay for vendor-authorized training. For more information go to ITCAP'sWebsite .
Are you learning-friendly?
CAEL has a simple true-false quiz to help you determine where your company stands on the adult learning curve.
  • All employees are regularly informed of new business developments.
  • Employees know our organizational goals and priorities.
  • One-third or more of employees use our organization's tuition program annually.
  • Our staff members receive recognition for increasing their competency in job-related areas.
  • As needs and opportunities change, employees can easily take on new jobs or assignments within the organization and are willing to do so.
  • Employees' recommendations are a critical factor in achieving improved productivity and profitability.
  • Senior management is committed to building continuous learning throughout the organization and both sponsors and supports initiatives to this end.
  • Company-sponsored learning is provided for all employees.
  • Our organization measures the impact of learning programs on performance improvement.
  • Employees have a say in determining their learning goals and activities.

If you answered "true" to more than five statements, then your organization is considered "learning-friendly." If not, you may look at this as an essential area for improvement. To see what you can do more to become a learning-friendly organization, visit the CAEL Web site .
In a recent study by CAEL, 34 percent of the respondents indicated that they do not formally measure the return on investment in learning. One-half of that group does not measure the impact of education and training strategies because they’re considered retention and recruitment tools. Of those who said they do measure the tuition and overall training efforts:
  • 12 percent use participant feedback surveys.
  • 12 percent measure employee performance improvements.
  • 12 percent study participation rates and funds allocated.

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