Education reimbursement programs benefit employees, employers

Monday, July 16, 2012
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When Birdie LeGrand, training coordinator for Nordenia USA, talks about the company's education reimbursement policy, she likes to share a success story.

A Nordenia employee working as an operator at the plant had a dream to be an accountant. "He was the only breadwinner for his family," LeGrand says. "He had four small kids and a stay-at-home wife." But, LeGrand says, it was his dream and he made it work.

"He (enrolled) at Southeast Missouri State University," she says. "It took him six years and zero debt. This is what he wanted to do. He was very intelligent on how he made it work."

LeGrand says the employee met with his entire department at the beginning of every semester to trade shifts or work days off so he missed the minimum amount of time from work.

His hard work was rewarded: Six months after he completed his degree, there was an opening in Nordenia's accounting department. He applied for the job, was interviewed, and deemed the best candidate.

"It's doable," LeGrand says.

In this case, it was doable because of Nordenia's education reimbursement program for employees.

According to LeGrand, the program is available to all employees. "We support two-year and four-year degrees," she says. An employee "determines the path to follow, there's a form to fill out and the department manager and senior staff has to approve."

She says Nordenia will pay for any courses that can have a direct benefit to the company.

"We support training 100 percent," she says. "Any type of communication training is going to make them a better worker while we have them here, long term or short term."

Once an employee has completed his or her coursework, Nordenia will reimburse the employee. There are some conditions, however. According to LeGrand, an employee is only reimbursed for classes in which he or she earned a C or better, and employees are not compensated for time off work for classes.

"They understand if they don't complete the degree, if they withdraw or fail, Nordenia doesn't pay for it," LeGrand says. "And once they receive a degree, we ask they stay with Nordenia for two years."

Isle of Capri, which has begun the hiring process for its Cape Girardeau casino, offers a similar program.

"At Isle of Capri Casinos, we believe in investing in our employees," says Jill Alexander, Isle spokeswoman.

Isle's reimbursement program covers both tuition and accreditation for employees who have completed one year with the company and have acceptable performance ratings.

"For tuition, classes taken or degrees sought must be determined to benefit the employee and the company in current or future positions," Alexander said in an email. "Reimbursement is available for a maximum of six classes during a calendar year based upon the final grade received for the course. Grades below a C receive no reimbursement."

As for accreditation exams, there is a full reimbursement the first time the test is taken and a 50 percent reimbursement if a second test is necessary.

LeGrand says the education reimbursement is a benefit to both the company and the employees.

"I have a lot of young people who went to college and dropped out because of student loans or because they couldn't afford it," she says. "They have to have a full-time job. A lot of people are attracted to the benefit."

She says it also has a positive effect on employees' attitudes.

"We offer an opportunity to expand their horizons," she says. "It increases morale ... and improves the skills they use every day."

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