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  • 1.  How To Interest Employers To Fund Professional Activities

    Posted 08-17-2019 08:23 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 08-17-2019 08:22 PM
    Last week the 2019 Younger Member Leadership Forum descended on ASCE's new DC office.  On top of their advocacy activities, they met to discuss issues important to them. One of these issues was how to get their employers to fund professional activities. 

    As an experienced executive in both the public and private sectors, I have faced this decision many times. The first thing to realize is that such expenditures are a value proposition for employers. It is incumbent on employees to approach management not only with a request but to back it up with the value such expenditures will bring to the organization. A few of my examples:

    1.  My organizations supported paying membership dues for associations (such as ASCE) relevant to the employee's duties, but required them to be active in those associations. Membership in committee work, consistent attendance in local events and writing papers or giving presentations at local and state conferences or seminars are good examples of what was required to sustain their paid memberships.  The value to the organization is employee development, bringing new ideas or technology to the organization and networking with clients and potential clients. 

    2.  Sponsorships of activities at seminars or conferences, or payment for exhibit booths  required more value based decision making. The value of public relations, branding and supporting client initiatives are good reasons for such investments.  When I was a utility director, we purchased booths at The County Fair, for instance, to promote water conservation and to be visible in a positive manner to our customers. 

    Would anyone like to share their experience or advice on how they persuaded their organizations to pay for association activities?

    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 2.  RE: How To Interest Employers To Fund Professional Activities

    Posted 08-19-2019 10:12 PM
    Hi Bevin,

    Thank you for starting this discussion as it is beneficial to some of my fellow younger members who are looking to ask their employer for financial support to attend events like YMLS in the future.

    I have received funding in the past from my company to attend conferences and have the following tips to share:

    1) Lay it all out - To get funding, you typically need to send a list of estimated expenses to your supervisor. This includes, but is not limited to: labor for time missed, registration, and miscellaneous costs like food and travel. You may not get 100% funded, but having all your estimated expenses listed out will help you to be able to negotiate what and what not your employer is willing to cover.

    2) Get involved on the local level - There is most likely a local ASCE section or technical institute in your area that you can get involved with. As you mentioned in your original post, it is easier to get funding and show value if you are already active in the association in some capacity and starting local is a great way to begin!

    3) Close the loop - When asking your employer to fund you to attend a conference or event, I highly recommend offering to present to the rest of your group upon returning. Our transportation division holds monthly division meetings, and it is typical for people in our group to do a short presentation on their time at the conference and what they learned from attending.

    If you have any questions or want to expand upon any of the above, feel free to respond to this post!

    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Associate Engineer
    Pennoni Associates
    Philadelphia PA

  • 3.  RE: How To Interest Employers To Fund Professional Activities

    Posted 08-20-2019 10:52 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 08-20-2019 10:52 AM

    This is a great topic for discussion. I have personally never asked for funding (yet) since I was able to get funding elsewhere for the only conference I have attended since I started my current job. I would replicate what you say and add the importance of giving value to your employer. They are making an investment for you to attend so you should provide value upon your return. Personally, I am terrible at asking for funding but I understand that this will also benefit my employer. I currently work at a small consulting firm which is very supportive of my professional activities. I think if you show your employer you are also looking elsewhere to secure funding (through scholarships or other funds) for these conferences they will see you really value and are motivated to attend such conferences. 

    At the end of the day, there are different policies within companies but the more value you provide to your employer the more likely they will support you. For example, plan with them which presentations you plan to attend and how they relate to your current job duties. Show them your involvement in committees or how you are actively involved in these organizations. Something I did at the last Structures Congress was to gather information from vendors such as Simpson, Hilti, AISC, ASCE, and others about current topics, products, and methods they were currently working on or planning to work on. This showed my employer a benefit of attending the Structures Congress and I believe I would be more likely to get funding through them in the future. 

    Hope all of this helps!

    Luis Duque EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Broomfield CO

  • 4.  RE: How To Interest Employers To Fund Professional Activities

    Posted 08-21-2019 10:50 PM
    There have been some good discussion about presenting the ways attendance in professional activities are beneficial to the organization and I think those are good points. However, it's only one side of the equation and I think perspective from the other side might also be helpful. From the private employer's perspective, the manager has essentially got two buckets of funds to draw from for these types of activities. It either comes from 1) operational expenses  and 2) compensation packages (which might include educational reimbursements or professional activities funding). Dipping into both buckets potentially attack the bottom line. 

    When an employer looks at the the cost of an employee, the employer will look at the "total package" not just the salary ( a very different perspective than most will view this). This means they are looking at base salary, FICA and FUTA taxes, health benefits, retirement benefits, bonuses, etc. and professional activities and educational reimbursements. This analysis is done at the beginning of each year to set an expected operational budget for the next year. For instance, let's suppose I have an employee about to test for the PE next year and wants to take prep courses. I might offer to pay for all those expenses as part of the "total compensation" package. Let's suppose this adds an additional $3,000 burden to the employer plus a reoccurring expense for CEU's. The key would be to set those expectations in advance. Surprise expenses are never good.

    In essence, my advice would be to approach it from either 1) an immediate value add to the company or project or 2) establish professional activities as part of next years "total compensation package"  - option 2 is my preferred recommendation. When I'm approached with professional membership or a certification funding I'm much more likely to agree when I can place into the following years budget as part of the total "burden" of carrying an employee  - plus there are potential taxation benefits to the employee if it's treated as reimbursement.  If you approach from the value add perspective be prepared for the counter-factual to be discussed that during that time engaged in the professional activity you will be an unproductive team member. The value of the experience needs to be greater than the lost productivity.

    Jesse Kamm PhD, PMP, A.M.ASCE
    Senior Vice President of Construction Management