The “Real” Cost of Training

Being the officer in charge of training is often times a lonely proposition: limited staff, limited time, limited funds and limited equipment.

If more courses are added, then more overtime is reduced and additional courses may be added to the training program. If these courses are mandated by the State, OSHA or NFPA standards, the justification is even stronger and may be approved on a more routine basis. What Fire/Rescue or EMS Chief does not want to be known for working on reducing overtime costs?

Another "bucket" is the "Travel and Lodging" line item. This line item gets fat from conference and out of town travel for training. One strategy is to propose a 25% reduction in training related travel and lodging and move the savings into the "Training Supplies" line item. Why send your personnel out of town to receive training and incur overtime when you can purchase an e-learning solution and refresh multiple employees for the same costs? The budget analysis should highlight the overtime saved as well as the efficiency provided by having personnel in town and available for emergencies.

Other training related costs outside of the training division budget are sometimes the "Contract Services" line item. Any costs of out-of-town instructor/presenters in next year's budget are usually in this bucket. Maybe you can transfer the costs to buy a comprehensive course that has a 3 to 5 year shelf life instead of buying a one-time presentation. Again, Overtime should be saved by using the distance learning option.

As a training officer, I've been successful in getting the HR or Personnel department to budget for a course under their "Risk Management" funds. When the training is completed, it meets one of their budget objectives, and it didn't cost you any of your budget money. Another method might be to cooperate with another community department such as: Police, Sheriff, Public Works or Environmental Health that also has a mandate to stay current in CPR, blood-borne pathogens or Confined Space entry. Have each department fund a percentage of the course and the fire department provides the personnel (on-duty) to conduct the hands-on portion at no cost.

Some community insurance carriers will lower the premium if training on high-risk activities is conducted by city personnel: Negotiate with the carrier to see if they will purchase the distance learning course with their funds and reimburse themselves with the premium savings after the training is complete.

You see, the "real" cost of training is more than the $1,200 dollars in your "Training Supplies and Services" line item. Insurance, overtime, cost-sharing arrangements and other approaches have a direct cost and benefit to your department. Funding distance learning programs takes the same drive, determination and innovative approach that most training officers use to develop current programs with limited resources. It has become a daily survival skill!

The "real" cost of training is far above the T/O's line items. Class development, motivation, presentation, local application and evaluation all add up to a workforce that is ready to face any challenge that the duty day might provide. Getting home safely after every call and every shift is one goal that is always worth the cost.

You know, I'd hate to calculate the cost of not training.