Mailbag: Who should foot the training bill?

Recently, I posed the question: Should IT executives depend on their employers for training or invest in ongoing education.

Although many of you thought that it is the responsibility of the employer to help their employees stay current in their skills, you conceded that the market downturn requires IT executives themselves to update their own portfolios of knowledge.

"Good IT professionals must be individuals who keep themselves in constant improvement and self-training. We have to know at least a little of everything," one reader says.

Another reader points out that many companies promised training as a benefit of employment, sometimes in lieu of higher salaries. She says it is unfair that they are now backing out of those promises, based on economic issues. She adds that her contract "revolves around understanding new technology and how it is deployed and maintained." Because of that, the company's gains from training are more substantial than the costs and so the promise should be upheld, she concludes.

True, during the halcyon days of the past few years, education was thrown around as a bargaining chip to woo employees.

However, along with fitness benefits, massages and ice cream fun days, this carrot has been protracted at many companies.

For one reader, there's a compromise that can be achieved.

"A compromise might be that the employee should come fully trained for the job as it is when she or he begins working," she says. "If the job or technology used on the job changes, the employer should pay for training. At a minimum, if the employer can't or won't pay for training necessary for the job, the employer should allow release time for the employee to attend training during normal working hours."

Another reader suggests an alternative to outside training.

"Much of our training is done in-house," he says. "Basically we set aside days to teach each other. This collaboration seems to work well. It spreads the knowledge among employees and it definitely keeps training costs low. We may not have the benefit of having packaged training materials, but a well-versed employee can conduct a training session with relative ease."

Several readers agreed on a line in the sand: if employees are using the training for advancement beyond their current company, then they should foot the bill themselves.

Finally, one reader says that if an employee shows initiative in getting self-trained, the employer may take notice. "When they see that you are willing to invest your own time and money, they show a wiliness to reward you once your training is complete, either in the way of reimbursements or other financial incentives," he says.

What do you think? Should you take the bull by the horns and self-train or wait for someone else to pick up the check? Let me know at mailto:sgittlen@nww.com.

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