Ask the Expert

Is company-provided CCVP training worth signing a pay-back agreement?

Dear Mr. Tittel:

My employer has offered me the opportunity to attend a fourteen-day boot camp to earn my CCVP (I currently hold a CCNA, and have taken and passed one of the two exams required for the Cisco IP Telephony Design Specialist certification (IP Telephony Design, 642-414 IPTD). The only thing is, the company wants me to sign an agreement that says if I leave their employment sooner than two years after completing the training, I must repay them on a pro-rated basis for the training, which costs about $9,000 for single attendee pricing. That works out to $375 a month. Do you think I should sign? I'm not even thinking about another job at this point, but it makes me nervous to take on a financial commitment like this.

I hope you can give me some good advice.
Sarah S.
Ypsilanti, MI

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Dear Sarah:

There are many different ways to consider this requirement. A cynic might label it an attempt to handcuff you after increasing your value; an optimist might call it a reasonable attempt to recover the value of their investment in your training. Either way, you have to look at this as a way for the company to benefit from your training. Because they're paying for it, it's not a completely unreasonable thing for them to ask you to do.

It all comes down to how much you want to earn your CCVP and how much you like your current job. If you're not at least interested in the former, if not wildly enthusiastic, then it may not be worth it simply from the time, sweat and long hours involved in completing a boot camp (I've taken them and I've taught them, and they always grind you down a surprising amount). If you aren't at least mildly satisfied with your job, your management, and your future prospects at the company, it may also not be worth assuming this kind of commitment.

For my own part, I'm encouraged to read that some companies are still investing in employee training and development, and take it as a good sign that you're being offered this kind of opportunity. Two years is not a terribly long time to stay anywhere, and if you're going to get quality training and have a chance to put that knowledge and information to work, you can't help but be worth more when the two years is up.

And if you do find a killer job before the 24 months have ticked off the calendar, you'll just have to ask your new employer to buy you out of your commitment to your old employer. If they really want you, this isn't a huge sum of money in today's job market, where recruitment and retention bonuses often reach the 5-figure mark.

Good luck in weighing your options. It's nice to have to deal with such dilemmas, so I can only hope you'll be happy with the results that come from reaching your decision.


This was first published in October 2007

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