This past Friday I spent about half an hour on the phone with one of my employees and man, was this guy crying in his soup!  See, he’s been on the job for about six months now and he’s got his drawers in a knot because I won’t sign off on sending him to firearms instructor school.  It’s a pretty interesting situation for me because, apart from some employees’ perception that they’re underpaid, a complaint about not being sent to training classes is one of the biggest gripes that I deal with.

In the case of this stellar performer, the reason I won’t send him to school is because there’s just no need.  The guy works static duties at a site where there’s no pistol range, so there’s absolutely no benefit for me to ship him off across the state for a week’s training.  In cases like these where the employees are dead set on wanting to go to a particular school, I usually give them two options:  they can transfer to another work site that has different needs, which gives me some kind of reason to pay for their training, or they can pay for the class themselves and go on their own time. 

                I’ll admit that the guy has a point, at least partly anyway.  Generally, if a company provides services that require employees to hold specific certifications, then that company is ultimately responsible for making sure that their employees are trained up.  But here’s what he failed to consider:  There’s some kind of a global recession going on right now, and even a lot of guys with specific skill sets are among the unemployed.  When I do my hiring now, I try to find the most qualified individuals to fill my slots.  The way I see it, bringing a previously-trained firearms instructor on board can save me about $1000 in training costs, and it will speed up the guy’s job entry time by at least a week.  So for you guys out there who only have low to minimal skill levels?  Sorry to say this, but unless you “time the market” by tracking new contract awards, you’re probably going to get low to minimal responses from recruiters right now.

                The attitude of expecting a company to provide training isn’t just limited to full-time employees, though.  I’m not sure why but there’s this big misperception that overseas security contracts are hurting so bad for warm bodies that they’ll pay at least $700 a day to train a guy whose only experience was when he used to work as a strip club bouncer.  This idea is still out there, and I see it whenever I receive cover letters that read “I have no security experience so far BUT…”, or even whenever someone sends me a resume and demands a job just because I write these articles.  (Just for the record guys, NO, I have no way to hook you up with a high-speed gig with “Blackwater”.)

                Now don’t get me wrong, I still send my guys to high-quality training courses, but I ONLY DO IT WHEN I HAVE TO!  If there’s absolutely no way we can get by with on-the-job training, or if I can’t find someone to hire who already holds the right certifications, then there’s really no other choice but to ship someone off to school for a week or two.  But when that happens, I’ve got to play around with the duty roster to cover for their absence, which usually means dipping into the overtime budget.  Plus there’s also the headaches that come when some “hired because he has a pulse” employee does some embarrassing move like charge alcohol or adult movies to his corporate credit card.  But even with all that, the worst part always comes a couple of months later.  Now that these employees have some legitimate skills (that my company paid for them to go get), they usually start thinking that they deserve a pay raise!    

                Honestly, one of the best things you can be doing to increase your chances of landing your first overseas security contract is to adopt the same mentality as a hired field hand.  These migrant workers are brought on to get the crop picking done, and nothing else.  When the harvest is over they’ll go back to being unemployed.  No farmer’s going to apologize when the work runs out, but if he finds a hard worker then he’ll at least want them to come back next year.  From the perspective of a short-term laborer, it’s up to no one but you to take responsibility for your career and seek out additional training opportunities based on your skills and interests.  There’s still no guarantee that you’re going to get hired, but at least you’ll make yourself much more marketable than the guy who sits on his can and waits for the company to send him to school. 

You military guys need to take note, since this is one of the biggest differences between working in uniform and working for a company.  If the government’s goal is to keep you enlisted for 20 years, they’re going to have no hesitation about sending you to schools so they can get the most possible work out of you.  On the other hand, if a company’s goal is to keep you on the payroll for only a short period of time, every training class they have to send you to is just one more way for them to lose money.  With that in mind, here’s a couple of final thoughts to keep in mind whenever you look at taking the next step and seeking out specific training courses:

                -If you don’t have a certificate, it didn’t happen!  You’ve got to have some sort of proof of completion, so make sure to save your certificates in a safe place.  I recommend scanning each of them and saving .PDF copies to your laptop as well, just in case you need to apply for new positions while you’re still overseas.

                -Informal training only counts if you’re looking for an informal job.  I mean hey, it’s great that your uncle is a Green Beret and that he’s been training you off and on for ten years, but you probably shouldn’t put that on your resume unless your ultimate career goal is to be a nightclub bouncer.  (Yes, I’ve really seen those credentials and no, they’re not the worst I’ve seen.) 

                -Remember, completing a training course, no matter how much it costs, does NOT guarantee you a job!  There are guys out there with no experience who’ve maxed out their credit cards to go to dozens of quality schools, but they’re usually going to get left in the dust by a former grunt with four years of service, a Secret clearance and an Honorable discharge.  Remember that the best way to find a job, no matter what kind, is to already have done the work somewhere before!

                My personal opinion is that you should snatch up as much training as possible whenever it becomes available, if only to add one more tool to your career toolbox.  The knowledge (and the completion certificate) that you pick up will stay with you for the rest of your life, no matter who paid for it.