The Power of Using Tuition Reimbursement to Lift Teams from Within

By Clark Barber

December 07, 2022
6 min read

With 4.5 million Americans quitting their jobs in March 2022 and employers posting 11.5 million job openings (the highest levels since the Labor Department began tracking these metrics a quarter century ago) it’s time we accept that The Great Resignation is real.1

Many leaders immediately think they’ll need to offer higher compensation or enhanced benefits to retain talent. But we’re unpacking an innovative and cost-effective approach a client recently took to retaining talent and bolstering critical skills.  

The Company

A multi-national manufacturing company of electronic components employs electronic technicians to test their products prior to shipping them to the customers. A highly trained technician is essential to getting these machines out to their customers quickly and with high quality. More electronic technicians could lead to machines reaching customers quicker, allowing them to meet customer demand.

The Situation: More Technicians Needed

A major challenge the manufacturing team faced was finding qualified electronic technicians. During a brainstorming session on their technician shortage, the leader realized the people they needed already worked for them as mechanical assemblers. These individuals understood their products, were loyal to the company, and they were already integrated into the culture.

The challenge with these assemblers is they did not have an electronics background, which is critical for the technician role. They needed enhanced electrical skills to take their careers to the next level.

While the organization had leveraged on-the-job training and self-paced online learning in the past, each option had its shortcomings.

Their technicians needed a more in-depth and formal electronics curriculum that allowed for discussion of complex concepts. Often, the self-paced online programs led to more questions than answers. There was no two-way conversation, if individuals had questions, they walked away with those questions unanswered. And on-the-job training often took the trained technicians away from their job when they needed them the most.

The thought of implementing an immersive training program was daunting, especially in the midst of high-pressure customer demands.   

The Solution: Maximizing Existing Tuition Reimbursement to solve for Talent Pains

Rather than incurring a large learning and development (L&D) expense and the laborious process of implementing and maintaining a training program, the leader thought strategically and creatively about how they could utilize existing tuition reimbursement dollars to solve for organizational talent needs.

They decided to partner with DeVryWorks to implement a customized learning pathway that would train their assemblers to become technicians. The six-class DeVry University Manufacturing Technology Certificate curriculum enables the team members to obtain necessary skills in a shorter time period. In addition, the participants achieve an accredited certificate that will stick with them for life.

With 25% of adults citing cost as a reason for not pursuing higher education, they knew they’d have to implement a cost-neutral solution if they wanted their team to participate. Which is why they selected an academic offering from DeVry University that was within the limits of the organization’s tuition reimbursement policy. 

The Result: The Manufacturer Creates a Talent Pipeline to Maintain Momentum

The partner reports the launch of the electronic technician program in partnership with DeVryWorks has improved the skill level among their trained technicians. The program has also resulted in a better educational experience for the participating team members, which boosts company sentiment for both current and prospective workers.

Now, if they have a question, they can bounce it off one of the other people in the class. The participants like that kind of buddy system and having an instructor on the other side who can answer questions.

The program has generated meaningful interest among the team. The company has already promoted individuals in the learning program to new roles in the company.

The team notes they’ll continue to promote this program to current team members as well as during the interview process for prospective new hires. With more than 27,000 employees in 115 locations in 19 countries, there are plenty of opportunities to develop talent from within through continuous learning.

For both retention and for attracting top talent, the new technician training program helps them deliver on client demands and company growth initiatives. Team members feel prioritized, knowing leadership is investing time to develop their skills through a thoughtful program that allows them to advance their careers. By building a guided path it makes it clear to those applying that this is a tangible step that can get them to the next step.

Now that there are these cohorts, and people see their peers' success, the leader shared it’s getting others excited to jump into the next cohort. All the students currently enrolled have been great employees, and leadership sees this as a benefit that will help build their careers with their organization for years to come.

Upskilling from Within Benefits the Employee and the Company

When companies support continuous learning, team members can truly change the trajectories of their careers while they contribute to the company. For businesses that want to address skills gaps, an investment in individual growth provides a meaningful solution. And for organizations like this manufacturing company, often this investment can come from existing tuition reimbursement programs that too often go under-utilized. 

About Clark Barber

Vice President, DeVryWorks

As organizations accelerate digitalization efforts, employees across every function and level must evolve. Clark Barber works alongside his team to help organizations align the right talent with relevant learning pathways to reskill for the future of work. He partners closely with admissions, student services, and academics to ensure the employee experience and learning pathways meet client expectations.

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