Monday, January 20, 2014

The case for conferences -- your professional development

If you are a Government employee, chances are you’re a bit frustrated by recent restrictions on travel and attendance at conferences, workshops and other professional development opportunities.  No one argues the fact that spending needs to be constrained, but the easy-button, low-hanging fruit model of reductions is short sighted and damaging to a staff’s proficiency.

Across the board funding cuts and constraints on the types of events you can attend (much less have your organization pay for) have a chilling effect on professional development.  In the field of communications, it is a particularly hard as most communication shops are small and the ability to conduct quality, in-house training generally pales in comparison to what is offered externally. Requests for outside training tend to fall upon the deaf ears of the folks who often don’t understand our career field or who can’t understand the need to appropriately fund and resource our staffs when there are so many ‘essential’ elements competing for scarce dollars. 

Thanks to several scandalous adventures, conferences conjure images of frivolous and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. This is a shame, because the vast majority of events attended by government employees demonstrate the commitment to excellence and continuous improvement that are the hallmarks of the majority of those in government service.

As communicators, we know that deeds must align with words. So, if we’re not allowed to attend professional development events, how can we demonstrate their intrinsic value?

Recently, ASAE submitted testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee as part of the hearing titled “Examining Conference and Travel Spending Across the Federal Government.”  ASAE’s testimony highlights the importance of training at conferences and other educational events for government employees.  ASAE thanks the association community for the great response they received from their call for comments.

If you are still interested in submitting comments on the value of meetings, the deadline is January 29. Comments can be submitted to laura_kilbride@hsgac.senate.gov.  Stories from associations around the country regarding the impediments to government attendance at conferences can be found on the Power of A Face-to-Face Meetings section of the website.

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