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tl;dr: I applied for and was rejected from an internal training program and they won't tell me why. How do I find out?

There is an internal training program at my workplace that I would like to enroll in. This is a course that is supposed to lead to being found qualified for advancement in the organization. Passing the course doesn't result in an automatic promotion or raise, but HR claims that it sends a message that I am likely ready for such, and am likely to receive preferential treatment when further opportunities open up.

I applied for the training but received a generic rejection message from HR. I meet all of the "on paper" prerequisites for admission to the program. How can I have "the conversation" with the employer to figure out how, or whether, I can get into the training?

What I have tried:

  • I asked for specific feedback on my candidacy from the training department by asking something like "I'd really like to enroll in this program in the future, so is there anything specific that you'd like to see?", and have received nothing but vague or pat answers such as "There are a lot of qualified people" and "We have only a few training slots available".
  • I asked for a copy of the course syllabus so that I can investigate learning some or all of the skills on my own, but I got a reply back from HR saying that they could not provide a syllabus per se, but were attaching more information on the training. The attachment they sent was an advertisement telling me that the course was really awesome and that people who have passed it are accomplishing great things at the organization. In other words, the response was completely unhelpful.
  • I investigated local career centers that claim to help with overcoming admissions barriers for job training, but found that they were focused on "basic skills" - They can help someone build up their reading, math, or computer skills to the level necessary to pass an entrance exam, and can also help with earning a GED, but they don't seem to have any power to help me overcome a skeptical and/or taciturn corporate training department. This training doesn't have a specific entrance exam (so there's nothing obvious to study for), and there are no obvious "checkbox" requirements I can work towards or enlist the assistance of a career center in working towards.
  • I spoke to my supervisor, and received a similar (if not worse) response than that from HR - He told me that I'll be admitted to further training when I'm "ready". When I asked what "ready" looks like (e.g. an advanced degree, a certain number of additional years of experience in my present role, an outburst of raw, untamed power workplace literacy, etc.), he told me that he couldn't tell me anything more than that he knows readiness when he sees it.
  • I asked whether there is some sort of "equivalency" that I can earn on my own (e.g. at a local university or trade school) and then "transfer" in to my company training record, but they have so far been unable or unwilling to give me an answer. I have also asked if I can "challenge" the course's final exam, but they have also declined to answer that question.

Is there any realistic way I can politely find out if I have any substantial chance of gaining admission to the training, and if so, what specifically I need to do to make that happen? In other words, I'm trying to figure out which of the following most matches my situation:

  • I'm more or less going to get in to the training eventually if I just keep reapplying and expressing interest (the "squeaky wheel" approach), but I just have to wait until a slot opens up for me.
  • I am seen as a future candidate, but there is something specific (e.g. a job skill, accomplishment, etc.) that the employer "needs" to see from me before letting me into the program, but that they have heretofore been unwilling to specifically explain to me (e.g. "Officially, the training requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree for enrollment, but demand has been so high that we are unlikely to actually admit anyone without a master's degree in the near future, so if you want to get in then you have to go finish grad school first.")
  • I have essentially no hope of getting in to the training program, and further inquiries are just damaging my career prospects (making me seen as a whiner, too ambitious, etc.).
  • The employer would actually love me to take the training, but, for whatever reason, believe that I don't have what it takes to pass it, and feel that simply denying me entrance would be better on my ego than letting me enroll and watching me fail.

This question has nothing to do with the following:

  • How to meet basic, formal course prerequisites or eligibility requirements (e.g. must have high school diploma, must have not more than X felony convictions in the past Y years).
  • How to obtain the knowledge, skills, and/or study habits necessary for success in the training (e.g. learning to read well enough to understand the course textbook).
  • Whether it is acceptable to skip or otherwise weasel one's way out of employer recommended training (it's about how to actually get in to "optional" training that the employer has so far been unwilling to let me even try).
  • Whether I am likely to pass the training if allowed in.
  • Whether taking or completing the training program is a good idea for me.

The question is not about the internal requirements themselves, but how to address them with the employer. That is, I'm not asking what the requirements are, I am asking how to have "the conversation" with the employer in order to figure out what the real requirements actually are, and whether I have any reasonable hope of ever meeting them.

Once I do have an answer, I will be able to move forward from that and actually address the issue that is preventing me from gaining admission. For example, if I find out that the real problem is that HR has mistakenly classified me as having Low Literacy, I can send them literacy test scores to get it fixed, and then reapply for the training with confidence.

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Is there any realistic way I can politely find out if I have any substantial chance of gaining admission to the training, and if so, what specifically I need to do to make that happen?

Enlist the help of your boss.

I was often able to get things done in spite of HR when it would benefit folks on my team.

Just explain your situation, that you are eager to learn and advance, and see if your boss can help in some way (either getting you accepted at some point or helping you learn why not). I'm guessing they could.

You might also chat with coworkers who were accepted into the training program and try to discern what made them "ready" that you don't yet have.

It's unfortunate that the company cannot be more forthcoming here. That happens sometimes.

  • I already tried this. My supervisor was even less helpful than HR. He just told me that I'll be admitted when I'm "ready". When I asked what "ready" looked like, he told me that he couldn't tell me anything more than that he would know readiness when he sees it. – Robert Columbia Jan 29 at 17:17
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Depends on the organization, but I assume you have at least once a year a 1-on-1 meeting with your boss, where your performance, but also your role and possible career paths are discussed.

So usually participants of such training programs are suggested by management and then some are selected.

So I would suggest to discuss your expectations and plans with your boss and then your boss could suggest you for the next round.

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To me it looks like your supervisor doesn't want you to have options.

From your post it seems that by passing this course you would be able to move from under him to another / better / more salaried position.

I think, when you applied to HR, your supervisor was contacted for an opinion and blocked your application, not wanting to loose you / control over you.

IMHO, you got your answer.

in this case you have 3 choices:

  1. Find higher placed person that can approve you over your supervisor to HR

  2. Take training yourself on your own time and move up according to it when there is an option

  3. This place is adamant to keep you down in your place, MOVE ON and find one that invest in its staff, there are lots of places like this, details vary from place to place (i.e. employer expense reimbursement if left within certain time after finishing the study etc.)

  • DownVote without comment is strange – Strader Jan 29 at 21:05

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