Securing Employer Sponsorship for Study

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How to get your employer to sponsor your study

It takes more than just an idea to get your company to sponsor your study.

You need to find out what your company cares about and develop an argument that is relevant to them.  You will also need to know why your study would be valuable to your company. What would they get from sponsoring you? How will the work you do during this time help them today or in the future?

Use the steps below to shape your plan. At the end of the day if you don’t ask you don’t get and you have nothing to lose by asking.

Step by Step guide

Identify what you want to study

Is it knowledge or certification that interests you the most? Do you want the course to help boost your career in a certain direction? Are you looking for a higher level qualification or to understand specific training topic?

If you work in a profession, check with relevant professional bodies for insight into what kinds of education companies value. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is a good example. Many offer their own courses, accredit certain qualifications or provide guidance.

Another way to find out what qualifications are in demand is to review job descriptions for the role you want. This will give you an insight in to what qualifications are in demand for the current job market. 

Research the cost of tuition and other expenses that may be needed for your desired course.

The costs of taking a course vary depending on the level you want to study at, how long the course is, and if there are any additional tools or materials required. These can include things like books, software or materials.  You many also need to factor in exam or registration fees.

Top Tip: Make a list or start a spreadsheet to track the expenses of different programs more easily. This can even be an excellent point to include in your request as evidence that your chosen course is good value.

 This article has some general costs for UK university-level programmes.

Determine how much money you need from your employer to complete your degree or certificate program

Now you know the costs of taking your ideal course, you need to think about what to do if your company says that will cover only part of the qualification or training. 

Look at your overall financial commitments and outgoings, create a budget and then decide how much you want to set aside for study. This is a simple online tool that can help you understand your budget.

You may find that you can cover the costs yourself and would prefer to do that than be tied to your current employer.

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate costs with your HR department. By knowing what you can, or are prepared to pay from your own funds can help you when having this conversation. If you are based in the UK, this article has information about university funding that may be available to you

Ask your HR department or representative if your company have a sponsorship policy that you can read.

Now you know the course you want, the costs and what you are prepared to pay, it’s time to take the next step.

If your company already has a policy and process to fund employees then you can review the documents to make sure the course you want fists within the framework before speaking to your line manager.

Find out if the company has sponsored other employees. If so, try and speak to them about their experience. 

This is a really good thing to do, as you can get first-hand advice on what it’s like to work and study at the same time as well as the process the company has.

You can find out what they wish they had known before taking a course or how to ask for the maximum amount of financial support. Getting in-depth opinions from people who have been there and done it can help you put your case together.

Speak to your line manager and find out if they support your plan.

When you have your research in place, it’s time to speak with your manager and explain the benefits of taking a course or completing a qualification. Think about when the best time to have this conversation. In the middle of a busy, stressful project is probably unwise.

During an annual appraisal or a regular one-to-one, if you have them, is a good time to ask. Even better if you have just completed a successful project or the company has had good results at the end of the financial year.

Some managers may not be supportive. However, most managers want to see their team developing and show dedication. If you have a good relationship with your manager, you might even work together to draft your proposal to show how gaining new knowledge and skills will have a direct impact on your role and the organisation.

Write a letter requesting sponsorship and send this to your line manager and or HR representative if appropriate.

Write a letter outlining all the reasons why they should sponsor you, including specific details about why this would benefit them as well as their company’s bottom line. This is where your planning and the previous steps will help.

There are many ways to draft the letter. However you write it it is important to cover the following.

Show the benefits- show how the learning outcomes of the course will impact the work you do, or fill a skills gap within the organisation.

Demonstrate your commitment to the company– be clear about how the impact of the course will improve your work, this year, next year or the year after.

Include your research– including the courses you have looked at with the costs and commitments involved in each can be a good way to demonstrate your preferred course as the best option. Ideally, you should include one at a lower cost but with fewer learning benefits and one at a similar price but weaker syllabus.

Highlight the return on investment potential- show how the skills or knowledge from the course will help with specific challenges or problems the company faces. You can include some more general upsides here such as improved productivity, skills share/ transfer and new ways to approach problems, systems or processes.

Follow up and ask for feedback on your request.

This is easy to skip, but a quick follow up email or call to your line manager or HR is a great way to catch any mistakes or omissions of key information. This can help stop any delays in the decision-making process and shows how keen and professional you are.

Prepare for both a positive and negative answer

You may be rejected for any number of reasons that are out of your control. Remain polite and professional whatever the outcome. In other words, don’t take it personally if you’re turned down for a study sponsorship from your company or manager. 

You’ll never know for sure why this happened, but there could be several explanations:  from internal politics to the company not having any budget at that particular point. It may be that you can reopen the conversation at a later date.

If approved, start your course and get the most from the experience!

If you’re granted funding, make certain you keep the promises made in your proposal and get the most out of the course possible. We have some great tips for managing work and study here. 

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