Employee education: What's it worth?

Posted by Jeremy Elwood on Mar 31, 2016

In their quest to attract and retain talented employees, companies consider many options. One getting increased attention is support for education and professional development.

That was the focus of a special session of the Chamber’s “60 Minutes to Success” educational series on March 29. The session, “Supporting Education Attainment,” included testimonies from several local business leaders on how they’ve invested in employee education and the positive results of those investments. Businesses represented on a panel at the event included CNH Industrial Reman, Positronic Industries, JMARK Business Solutions and Paul Mueller Company.

Real-world examples
Presenters spoke on numerous aspects of tuition and professional development assistance, from logistics to the potential return on investment.

“The cost of investing in sending someone to school is much less than going out to find someone new if your employee leaves because you didn’t support them,” said Denise Silvey, manager of human resources for Paul Mueller Company. “We’re not out hunting for people and hoping they’re a good fit; we develop them ourselves.”

These companies have seen the potential benefits of offering tuition assistance and other training support; all offer some form of help with tuition reimbursement for postsecondary classes and additional certifications. Mary Ling, global human resources coordinator for Positronic Industries, says the future of the company’s employees is directly tied to the future of the company itself.

“We’ve been around for more than 75 years, but as generations change we have to prepare for what’s coming next,” she said, noting that employees who receive additional education can bring a fresh outlook to the organization. “Even older companies need new ideas.”

Ongoing efforts
The meeting underscored efforts by the Chamber and other workforce development leaders to help more employees earn higher education degrees and certificates.

The statistics are striking. The Lumina Foundation estimates that more than two-thirds of all U.S. jobs will require a postsecondary degree or credential by 2018 … but only one-third of Springfield workers have an associate’s degree or higher as of 2013.

This data drives the Springfield Higher Education 2025 Project, a partnership between Lumina Foundation, Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the Chamber and numerous other organizations. The project goal is 60 percent postsecondary credential attainment by 2025. It’s ambitious, and definitely requires investment from employers. But the potential value for companies, individuals and the community is enormous:

  • Education benefits programs attract employees with strong potential for advancement.
  • Advanced training and education is often essential to meet employer demands for a more skilled workforce.
  • Even basic skills training increases morale and productivity.
  • Employees who receive education support tend to stay at their companies longer.
  • Tuition assistance programs lead to more productive employees whose increased productivity can offset the cost of benefits.
  • A 1 percent increase in post-secondary education rates would create $225 million in economic returns for the Springfield region.

The Chamber’s focus is on helping those already in the workforce who have completed part of the requirement toward a degree or certification. We feel that helping those employees “get across the finish line” is one way we can help to offer the most immediate return on investment.

The partnership between business and education is vital for community development, and we encourage employers to consider the benefits of supporting employee education.

“If employees feel like the company has stepped up for them, they’ll step up for the company too,” Silvey adds. “Supporting people as they develop their skills is how you build a company from the ground up.”

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