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My workplace offers several training courses that are nominally optional, but that are being heavily marketed by HR as just what the doctor ordered in terms of shaping up our skills and giving us what it takes to shine in our jobs. I have looked at what is offered and determined that the courses offered are unlikely to be helpful to me as they are "basic skills" classes in subjects in which I have significant or extensive experience. For example, one of the courses is a basic course on how to use a computer, while I have extensive experience in IT and have been using computers for 30 years.

I am a little worried that, by not enrolling in these courses, I am offending management (or HR) or limiting my career growth (e.g. maybe there are whispers in management saying "No, we can't promote @RobertColumbia, he hasn't taken the basic computer skills course, and all our non-entry level jobs require computer skills.").

How can I determine to what extent I am expected to take these courses? I am interested in building my skills, but not very interested in spending time and company resources sitting in a class that is far below my level ("This is a mouse and you can click on it, yes yes, now let's all try it! Now, does anyone know what the Internet is?"), and possibly preventing a co-worker who actually needs the class from actually taking it because I enrolled in the last seat.

Obvious options that I see:

  • Just do nothing and wait to see if I am told to take the courses. E.g. "Mr. @RobertColumbia, your annual performance review is as follows: Why didn't you take the Basic Computer Skills course? Everyone at this company must know how to send and receive email and know that a megabyte is not a kind of medical emergency. You are being placed on a Performance Improvement Plan until you enroll in and complete the Basic Computer Skills course."

  • Ask my supervisor directly whether or not I am expected to take the courses given my current skillset. I am worried that this option may result in blowback or a negative impression from my supervisor, or that I will receive a pat or incomplete answer (e.g. they may just repeat the official spiel that the courses are optional, not telling me that passing them is an unwritten requirement for promotion).

  • Just enroll in the classes anyway, sitting quietly and trying not to get angry at the silliness of it all.
  • Ask if there is a placement test, pretest, exam equivalency, or pre-enrollment counseling that I can take to determine whether or not I need the courses. E.g. "I'm not sure if I need to enroll in the Basic Computer Skills course, is there a pretest I can take?"

My inclination is to go with #4, as it both signals to management that I am interested in skill-building while also indicating to them that I have, or may have, some skills that they may not be fully aware of and that I am also sensitive to using company resources wisely.

This is not an IT employer and I am not in an IT role.

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    Seems strange. I would've thought in this day and age, basic computer skills were an essential prerequisite for just about any non-physical job out there. – AffableAmbler Apr 5 '18 at 19:22
  • How do you know the content of the course to such detail? – bharal Apr 5 '18 at 19:27
  • @bharal from reading the course description and associated marketing materials, plus a bit of common sense. If I have grossly misjudged and the course is actually about basic skills in using the decrepit 1972 IBM mainframe that lives in the sub-sub-basement of corporate HQ and that I will discover must be used by all managers to print the Cover Sheet Of The Day so that they can properly file their twice-daily mandatory TPS reports, that is a different matter entirely, but everything I know about this place says that the oldest computer they have here is probably a 2003 era model or so. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Apr 5 '18 at 19:35
  • Also, I have not uncovered any evidence that there is anything in the sub-sub-basement except dust and broken chairs. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Apr 5 '18 at 19:36
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    I knew a young professional paramedic (you know, the kind that comes in an ambulance and saves accident victims' lives), who was also teaching first aid courses to the public, but never had a basic first aid course himself. Tried to get a driving license, and he needed the basic first aid course. He had to attend one course done by a colleague in the morning, got his certificate, then did the afternoon course as an instructor. – gnasher729 Aug 28 '18 at 10:48
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Email HR and copy your manager (or vis versa depending on what your gut tells you):

"Hi [HR person], it looks like in this case the training being offered is in a subject I am already proficient in. Are these seminars something I should be signing up for?"

If they say, "Yes," then do it. It's their time they are wasting. Or maybe they want you involved so that you can better understand where the rest of the company is. Maybe corporate is really pressuring them to push the trainings as a test to see if support calls go down.

In these kind of situations it is usually better to make the question explicit rather than relying on an assumption. Explicit questions take the burden of mind reading off of you.

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    I like this answer, especially your point about "where the rest of the company is". Sometimes I imagine that I'll find out that most of the people here are the stereotypical technophobes that you read about in old help desk horror stories, the ones who complain about the low quality cupholders installed on their computers, click on every pop-up ad that they see, believe that Windows is a good operating system, and refuse to follow instructions to click on icons because they are Protestants. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Apr 10 '18 at 0:02
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A combination of #2 and #4 should be a solid approach to the problem. Tell your supervisor you are not sure if and what classes to take as you don't want to spend company resources if it's not needed. Ask your supervisor how to determine whether you should take a specific course.

(This answer is pretty short but you already did a good job of looking at the alternatives. There is no secret to this. Just go ahead and ask.)

  • Thanks. There are classes that are below my level that are actually listed as mandatory. It turns out that if there is a fire, you should evacuate the building. Who would have thunk it??? – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Apr 5 '18 at 18:02
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    @RobertColumbia Mandatory courses like that are more about legal culpability than about whether you have the knowledge or not. That way if there is a lawsuit the company can say "Well RobertColumbia took the safety training, so he should have known how to get out safely." or "RobertColumbia took the harassment training, so he knew he was violating company policy and the law by making those comments." – David K Apr 5 '18 at 18:07
  • @DavidK and, to be fair, while it is about legal culpability, it's because sometimes people don't know how to get out in a fire. Or that they cannot, say, sniff their co-workers hair. – bharal Apr 5 '18 at 19:28
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    In an NYC office block you don't evacuate the building. You walk down the stairs to a floor below the fire. – Laconic Droid Apr 6 '18 at 2:51
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From a managerial standpoint, doing the bare minimum work will get the bare minimum results. If you aspire to get promotions and benefits over your peers you have to show that you put in that extra work. Even if the optional courses are easy for you, taking the time to complete the courses and proving that you have those skills will make you a better candidate in comparison to others competing for the same promotion.

Since this applies to a job outside of IT and this isn't an IT role, having proof of even basic computer knowledge through certifications and coursework will look better in comparison to someone that can't show proof of these skills but says they have them.

Realistically, if the company is marketing these skills to you and the other employees there is probably reason for it. The company is going to take note of who puts in extra time and energy into building skills. Don't worry so much as expenditure of company resources on you when they are offering.

As for how to get through the class, that is up to you and how you handle redundancy. If the company is marketing this to employees, it is probably for their own benefit in the long run and you might take at least something out of it. If not, at least you have the required course work in case there is ever a situation where it would be better if you acquired it.

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    I disagree with your assessment that basic internal training will be relevant in an outside job search. If I am looking for an IT professional and see a resume that lists recent training in "Computers 101" and "Microsoft Office Basics", I'll perceive that as padding their resume with useless filler since they don't have the skills to do anything worthwhile. – David K Apr 5 '18 at 18:11
  • Part of asking this is demonstrating that I can think critically and come up with alternate solutions, such as asking whether I can demonstrate adequate or even outstanding computer usage skills some other way, such as by passing an exam or submitting a portfolio of prior learning. "OK, I have this certificate in desktop troubleshooting, this one in Health Information Technology, this one in Advanced Introduction to Intermediate Mad Leet Python Skillz with an endorsement in Parseltongue 2.0 Best Practices 2017.... what else do you require?" – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Apr 5 '18 at 18:12
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    @DavidK I never mentioned anything about this being relevant in an outside job search. This is specifically talking about internal promotions within that company that highly recommends going through the course. If there is interest in getting another job then going through those courses will be redundant. – BelethorsGeneralGoods Apr 5 '18 at 18:17
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    @RobertColumbia if you would rather go through the effort of finding another way around the course through building a portfolio and proving the skills rather than just take the class that would be between you and management to figure out. To me, it sounds like more effort than it's worth. But that decision is ultimately up to you and management. – BelethorsGeneralGoods Apr 5 '18 at 18:19
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    I'm sure it's common for companies to have dumb reasons for promoting people, but picking the person who did the "computers 101" course over the person who has already shown to be way better with computers than that, sounds like a good example of "how to get your best people to give up on you". (If it's for that reason, anyway.) – Erik Aug 28 '18 at 11:01
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Short and sweet answer.

Speak to your manager/hr and explain you would like the opportunity to learn more and carry on progressing but feel as if the courses wouldn't offer you much more insight.

Then ask for their suggestions.

2

Training courses cost the company a lot of money. Both in form of having to pay for the teacher and for having to pay you to sit there instead of doing any of your actual work. So not taking part in any training courses you don't benefit from saves the company money. Dragging you to courses you won't learn anything from is just nonsense from an economical perspective.

However, there are some courses which are mandatory for legal or political reasons. You might not think you need a course about how to not break your back while washing your hands correctly, and you might be right about that. But someone thinks everyone needs to do this course to keep the company safe from a lawsuit just in case someone gets injured in a freak accident involving a bottle of hand sanitizer. Another topic are courses about cultural sensitivity, workplace harassment, conflict management and similar social behavior rules. Those people who think they don't need such a course are often those who need it the most. And it is hard to argue against taking such courses from a cost/benefit standpoint, because the benefit is entirely subjective.

So there are some training courses you just won't get around, no matter how little use you feel they have for you.

But when it comes to a hard-skill course, then the best way is to discuss this with your supervisor. Ask them which of these courses are obligatory and which you can skip if you already have the necessary skills.

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