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  • 1.  Support from employers for professional development

    Posted 03-13-2017 06:32 PM
    Hi everyone, in some of the places I’ve worked involvement in industry groups, such as ASCE, is not really supported unless it’s on your own time and dime. A number of my engineering friends have encountered the same thing, especially when it comes to attending conferences (both getting time off to attend and funding). Does anyone know of some resources to make a business case as to why involvement is important? Do you have any strategies for convincing supervisors of the value?

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Associate Principal
    Hope Furrer Assoc Inc
    State College PA
    (814) 234-8191

  • 2.  RE: Support from employers for professional development

    Posted 03-14-2017 10:29 AM

    It is always troubling to hear that employers are providing less support to their employees for professional activities these days.  It's happening in small firms, large firms, government and industry and it's extremely unfortunate for the profession as a whole.  The strength of a professional society like ASCE is its diversity of membership; that many types of practitioners collaborate to advance the profession.

    As to business case, the primary drivers should be employee professional development, business intelligence and giving back to a society that is fighting for our interests in Washington and every state capital.  If employers really value their employees, they would support their participation in enrichment activities such as seminars and conferences.  When budgets are tight, perhaps these activities must be limited to in-state venues; fortunately ASCE conferences and continuing Ed are held all over the country.  I think consulting firms tend to under-estimate the value of conferences.  I've heard many take the narrow view of counting the number of potential clients and basing their investment only on sales.  Conferences offer much more including a window on what the competition is doing and for whom, opportunities to meet and get to know technical leaders in the industry and networking that might allow you to identify a proven candidate for the firm to hire. Our seven reasons for employers to participate can be seen at the World Environmental & Water Resources Congress web site, but these reasons apply to all conferences.

    Eric Loucks P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE
    Treasurer, EWRI

  • 3.  RE: Support from employers for professional development

    Posted 03-14-2017 11:43 AM
    It is the enlightened manager who knows to encourage his employees to seek outside development, and they are not the norm.  My advice for engineers of all ages is to be engaged outside of their workplace.  The best thing you can invest in is yourself, and getting involved outside of your workplace needs to be viewed as an investment.  Few people were paid to go to college, they did it as an investment in their career.  Same with professional development after college.  If your company will not reimburse you and you have to take vacation to attend a conference do it anyway.  You will find you become an educated consumer on what is a good deal and what is not.  Get involved with a committee.  It is not too hard if you don't pick one of the "hot" ones.  The partially enlightened managers will recognize the initiative you take and will begin to support your efforts.  At one of these events you may meet someone from another company that does support their employees, and if your current employer does not, you may find that switching companies is the right solution.  What employers fear is that paying dues for someone only results in someone getting a subscription to a journal that probably doesn't get read.  What is important is that outside involvement, either professional or not, will not only make you a more valuable employee, it will make you a better person.

    Alan D Fisher, PE
    Construction Structures Group Leader
    Cianbro Corporation
    Portland, Maine

  • 4.  RE: Support from employers for professional development

    Posted 03-24-2017 09:58 AM
      |   view attached

    I'm on the Committee for Younger Members and your question stirred some conversation with our group. I think the advice others gave in this thread is solid. I also wanted to make available a template letter (attached) that we've used in the past for what you're trying to accomplish; you could feel free to use my name as the reference at the bottom.

    Additionally, ASCE has testimonials (written and video) available on their website that can be very effective for relaying the benefits of involvement. Moving forward, I think ASCE should aim to pull together testimonials specifically from management-level personnel in the industry saying less what they've personally gained from involvement, and more what their employees and companies have gained. I imagine these could be a very useful tool in trying to build the support you're describing.

    Jesse Gormley P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE
    Secretary, Eastern Geographic Member
    ASCE Committee on Younger Members


  • 5.  RE: Support from employers for professional development

    Posted 03-24-2017 03:39 PM
    Continuing education is critical for your development and your firm no matter who pays for it. I was told in college that engineers would always have a need to go back to "school" throughout their careers. Something I didn't want to hear at the time but it is true. 

    I was very fortunate at the start of my career with FHWA to have received a tremendous amount of training that was not available to me in college but was needed for me to do my job as an assistant area engineer and subsequent engineering and management positions.  I continued to receive training from FHWA or was reimbursed for relevant training, seminars and conferences my whole career.  Without all of this training, I certainly would not have been able to do as good a job as I did, develop my broad network, or had such a rewarding career. 

    About midway through my career, the training budgets for all offices were reduced and were continually reduced over several years.  As the office manager responsible for developing and approving the annual office training plan (included conference, seminars and workshops), I worked with my assistant to decide who got the funds and administrative time to go.  Each employee had to develop and submit their annual training and individual development plan (IDP) which was rolled up into the office plan. Our priorities were (1) sessions that covered knowledge that the office needed but did not have, (2) the need to develop an employee to do a better job in their current position, and (3) the need to develop an employee for their next likely position (usually a promotion). We focused on local training to avoid or minimize travel expenses and had to decide whether the training was worth an employee's time for what there were getting. We also withheld some funds in case something worthy came up later in the year.  After the budget was fully committed, we entertained employee requests just for administrative leave (paid time) to attend training at their expense. Again with this last one, we had to decide if the training was actually worthwhile for the agency to approve the administrative leave. 

    I also required employees to give a summary of what they learned at an office or engineering meeting. We also tried to observe who used what they learned and who didn't. 

    In about 2000, I interviewed an individual for a position in my office and asked her why she wanted to leave the State DOT after 15 years. She replied that she had two reasons. First, she needed a career change and, secondly, stated that FHWA trained its employees whereas, the State DOT did not.  

    For your business case you need to focus on what's in it for your firm or agency even though it is mutually beneficial. Try this and see what happens. Further, seems like your firm needs a champion to initiate a grass-roots effort to get a training a program off and running. If you feel you might be this champion, I suggest you approach this on an annual office-wide or firm-wide basis to get into the firm's budgeting cycle. If you can get funds budgeted, it's much easier for a manager to authorize funding and paid time.  

    Of course there are many more opportunities for training, seminars, workshops, and conferences beyond ASCE.

    When you think about changing employeers, be sure to ask if they fund training for their employees.

    Allen Masuda P.E., M.ASCE
    Plainfield IL