Top 5 Reasons to Provide CEU Training for Your Engineers

Amazing Statistic About Employee TrainingTop 5 Reasons to Provide CEU Training for Your Engineers

One of the biggest challenges faced by professionals today is to increase employee productivity without incurring high costs and effort. However, it is easily attainable and many firms already implement one method to increase productivity; that of providing continuing education to their employees. There are many reasons to provide engineering continuing education training to your staff.

Engineering firms that reimburse their staff for continuing education training receive a dividend worth many times the actual cost. Benefits include higher staff retention rates, employees that are more engaged, and enhanced worker competency.

Would you be willing to make one investment in your firm that could increase employee productivity by a factor of two? You probably would, but you would also be skeptical of such a promise. Most engineering managers and business owners believe that any change like this would be incredibly expensive or very complicated and challenging to implement. And experience would seem to be on their side. The solution to this improvement is already something that most engineering firms already do – provide continuing education training to their employees. There are many benefits to providing continuing education, through Continuing Education Units (CEUs), and this article will discuss why, where, when, what and how they can be best employed.

Why provide Continuing Education Units (CEUs)?

Engineering supervisors and office managers are faced with a suite of issues that all impact on employee productivity, including:

  • Tight budgets
  • Difficulty hiring and retaining staff
  • Varying staff competency

Team leaders are always on the lookout for innovative ways to address the above. One of the most effective, and often least costly option, is staff training. A study of exit interviews found the top reason for resignation was the lack of access to training and mentoring.

Engineering firms have an advantage over many companies in that professional engineers are required to develop their Continuing Professional Competency (CPC). Many States require this in order for renewal of professional licenses. Engineers achieve CPC by completing a set number of Professional Development Hours (PDH) a year, by enrolling in and completing various CEUs. Most employers pay for and reimburse engineers for the PDH credits obtained.

There are many reasons to provide CEU training to engineering staff. The top three are:

1.      Staff Retention

Some managers are discouraged from continuing education due to a perception that highly skilled engineering talent may seek employment elsewhere. However, a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review noted that 95% of hiring managers considered continuing education as a critical staff retention tool. The knock on effects of training is clear, with the resultant enhanced skills set, confidence, job satisfaction and office morale all positively influencing the rate of staff retention.

2.      Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is the connection that staff feel towards their employer, the work they do, and their firm’s goals. Positive employee engagement results in productive, confident employees, working well as team members, who are loyal, and strive to achieve success for their firm. Providing CEU training for staff members is an easy way to highlight not only their importance to the organization, but also the firm’s investment in them and their success. Once that employer/employee trust is built, continuing investment is a powerful motivating factor that keeps the team working hard and striving to produce optimal results. Providing CEU opportunities can therefore be mutually beneficial, as the increased skills set and technical expertise can boost the service offered by the firm and improve its standing as an engineering leader.

3.      Skills Development

CEUs expose staff to cutting edge innovations in their field and facilitate growth of new ideas. In addition to boosting proficiency, CEUs provide opportunities for networking with others working in similar fields and for developing good teamwork skills. Continual educational also allows for knowledge gaps and understanding to be highlighted and rectified. This helps build employee confidence and ensure a common knowledge base.  By providing high quality, relevant engineering CEUs, a talented team can be built that provides quality work to clients, with less risk of errors or omissions.

Where are CEUs offered?

In this internet age, it is possible to register online for any number of accredited CEUs, from a variety of service providers. This option is useful for self-employed engineering professionals, or those who work remotely. For organizations, offering in house courses for staff is the preferred option as these CEUs can:

  • Enhance employee morale
  • Improve office attitude
  • Strengthen communication within the office
  • Supplement other training initiatives
  • Build and maintain teamwork skills
  • Create networking opportunities within the organization
  • Form an atmosphere of belonging and positive energy

Lunch and Learn EventsLunch and Learn Events

Training is a very broad concept that can be delivered in many different formats. One very effective strategy is the “lunch and learn” event. This involves bringing the team together, usually during lunchtime, for a CEU based on a pertinent topic. This can be done using in-house practice leads or by an independent subject matter expert. A variety of learning techniques can be used, including live webinars, which provide a perfect avenue to access outside experts and training on new or innovative topics.

Lunch and learns events have multiple benefits in addition to skills development. By bringing everyone together, a feeling of belonging and appreciation amongst staff is fostered. Providing lunch is a great way to show gratitude for staff efforts. These group gatherings also strengthen relations between employees and foster team building.

When should CEU training occur?

Experience shows that office training sessions should be held at regular intervals at the same time. Ideally, this would be during either meals (at lunch and learn sessions) or regularly scheduled meetings. The key is to hold consistent and regular events. This generates excitement prior to the event, and raises an expectation of attendance and increased participation. A monthly schedule works very well for engineering CEUs.

What topics should CEUs cover?

Some states require pre-approval of CEU courses and course providers, so it is imperative to check that the training sessions are compliant. It is important that the content of CEUs be geared to the needs and requirements of the targeted audience (professional engineers) and department (e.g. engineering, drafting, project management teams). For example, engineers will find technical topics related to civil, chemical, electrical, mechanical, or geotechnical engineering useful. Drafting and graphics personnel will benefit from topics related to vertical design or Building Information Modeling. Administrative and sales staff may find a webinar on time management or safety of interest. Remember, one size does not fit all. If the course or topic is not interesting or engaging, the benefits of the CEU will not be realized.

How to run a successful CEU

Planning is key to running a successful CEU that meets the educational goals of the audience. The following six strategies work very well:

  1. Promote the upcoming event: Advertise via emails, posters or flyers, personal invitations and posting a sign-up sheet. This generates enthusiasm and excitement amongst staff.
  2. Provide early notice: Promotion should start at least three weeks prior to each event. This allows staff to plan and make necessary changes to their work diaries.
  3. Ensure voluntary participation: It is unwise to make attendance compulsory. Rather generate genuine interest by adequate, early promotion of the event, and choosing a valuable and interesting topic.
  4. Effective time management: Be respectful of time by using it efficiently. Focus on administrative tasks such as serving the food, getting everyone seated, and reserving enough time at the end for questions, to ensure that the event runs smoothly.
  5. Avoid distractions: Cell phone ringers should be switched off, and texting/emailing prohibited during the event, which should be held in a suitable, quiet venue.
  6. Enlist a suitable presenter: Ensure that the presenter (whether a member of staff, invited speaker or webinar instructor) is knowledgeable on the topic, is engaging, talented and has the necessary presenting skills.

Final Thoughts

Although clichéd, employees are an organization’s greatest asset. In light of this, any action that makes staff members feel appreciated and respected will benefit the entire organization. The best and least expensive option is staff training. Providing CEUs can therefore be the best investment in terms of staff retention and improved productivity. And if the why, where, when, what and how of CEUs are followed, there is no doubt that there will be wide ranging benefits to engineers, engineering firms and the engineering profession as a whole.