Won't someone please think of the children?


When it comes to children, everyone is focused on providing the best education possible. Parents will spend countless hours researching and seeking out the best preschool, primary school and high school providers for their little treasures.

There are waiting lists for preschools and interviews for primary schools, but parents are happy to jump through these hoops knowing that the long term benefit will be huge for their kids and their futures.

Time investment aside, once you’ve jumped through the hoops, been questioned and finally been accepted, it’s time to get out the the plastic. Hope you’ve got a good rewards program on that thing.

On average, you can expect to part with $50,000 on your child’s education if you go with public. If you decide to go with the prestige and benefits of private, your wallet will be over $400,000 lighter because of your child's schooling. And this is before we start looking at the cost of further education.

Assuming a child goes through the standard 12 years of schooling, plus a few more in childcare, parents will be paying between about $3,000 and $26,000 a year to ensure little Timmy gets the opportunity to learn and be all that he can be. Then, once little Timmy has goes on to university he will be looking at bill of anywhere between $15,000 to $37,000 a year depending on which field he decides on and how far he wants to pursue his education.

Why do all this research and whip out the credit card time after time?

Well, that’s obvious; to provide them with the best start in life and ensure they have every opportunity to be the very best they can be. Then something interesting happens. Timmy becomes a 'professional.'

He joins a company, he becomes a 'contributing member of society' and his company wants Tim, or “Timo” as his new workmates call him, to be the best he can be and be awesome at his job.

Localised and current data on average training spend per employee is frustratingly difficult to find, but if we look over at the data from the US, we see that the average annual spend was about $1,200USD (about $1,600AUD) in 2013. And this is just the average.

I’ve had conversations and been a part of organisations where their spend cap is $1,000 per year. If we look at the variation between industries alone, we see that it’s the high profit sectors such as mining that are the most generous with their L&D spending while working in retail you may only see 10% of the investment mining has.2

So what has happened? Why are we so willing to spend 6 weekends in a row looking for the right preschool and then had to cancel next year’s Europe trip so that we can invest in Suzie’s learning, but when it comes to Susan from Customer Service we wriggle every way possible to reduce the cost of her training.

All of a sudden, we don’t want to invest in Susan so she can be, but rather spend just enough so she doesn’t walk out the door, but not too much just in case she does anyway. Why?

I’ve actually touched on what I believe is the answer.

When we look we think about learning opportunities for kids, we see this as an investment. But for some reason as soon we start talking about learning opportunities for adults, it becomes an expense on the company balance sheet. From a business perspective, expenses are something to be controlled and reduced.

To be completely honest, I don’t blame many of these organisation from having this perception. Many have been burnt by providers promising silver-bullet solutions, and instead delivering mine fields of ineffectiveness and wasted productivity.

A word of advice, if something sounds too good to be true, it is. I know this is rather cliche, but it is accurate. When talking to someone about investing in an L&D strategy, ask them what it can’t do rather than what it can. Then we have to overcome this chicken and egg situation and gain momentum. You have to invest to see a future return, but that investment is judged on past performance and success measures.

If you are caught in this vicious cycle I implore you, please, won’t you think of the adults?!




[1] http://www.kidspot.com.au/school/tools/education-costs/the-real-cost-of-education

[2] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/featurearticlesbytitle/2D45C9245EB83097CA256DEA000539FC?OpenDocument