3 Shocking Stats About Training For Administrative Professionals

In my previous blog posts, I talked about the changing role of administrative professionals and ways people can get the salaries they deserve. Today, I’d like to talk about how support staff can keep up with those new demands and reinforce their value to companies through training.

There was a time when someone could become an administrative professional right out of high school and have the career skills needed to do well. That's not always the case these days. Administrative professionals have to take charge of their own career development and lifelong education. Unfortunately, too many of them are getting too little training.

Support staff perform a wide range of technically challenging tasks and are increasingly being asked to serve in managerial/coordinator positions, according to the 2013 Benchmarking Survey from the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). Given those workplace demands, the survey also reveals a troubling lack of training for many administrative professionals. It reinforces the fact that you have to be proactive about pursuing training opportunities.

On the face of it, the survey contains positive data in terms of development for administrative professionals. About two-thirds of the approximately 3,400 respondents get at least some in-house training from their employers. About three-fourths of all employers pay for training from outside vendors.

This is good news, but it hides three statistics that raise concerns:

1. Two out of every three administrative professionals get 10 or fewer hours of annual training provided by their employer.

2. More than two in five administrative professionals get four hours or fewer of employer-provided training every year.

3. One in five administrative professionals get no training at all, equal to about 840,000 people in the United States alone, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the profession as a whole.

Even 10 hours of annual training is simply too little to be adequate for someone working in a contemporary office. Administrative professionals keep businesses around the world running every day and business is demanding. They serve as the first point of contact for stakeholders, coordinate projects, plan and run meetings and events, track budgets, integrate new productivity tools and techniques, ensure compliance with laws, policies and regulations, make travel arrangements and are responsible for an average of $20,000 a year in purchasing decisions or recommendations. Support staff do an amazing job, but 10 hours of training is not enough.

To put this in context, IAAP requires its Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) certification holders to attain 60 continuing education points every five years in order to recertify. That translates to about 12 hours a year of training. Many administrative professionals don’t even get half that amount of annual training.

Administrative professionals deserve better. As a communications professional, I get approximately 24 hours of career training a year through my employer (IAAP), the Public Relations Society of America and other providers. My job is no more technical and demanding than that performed by support staff.

If you’re an administrative professional, the three statistics cited above should serve as a wake-up call. Many career counselors agree that individuals have to take responsibility for their own professional development. That’s true even if you have an enlightened employer who invests in training.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to career development. There are a lot of excellent resources available, including those offered by individual states and local colleges and universities. I will specifically mention that a professional association like IAAP can provide access to outstanding mentors, webinars, events and other training and development resources. Pursuing your CAP certification is another great option, because it provides a great goal to pursue and some structure as you prepare for the exam.

Nobody understands your own educational needs better than you. Your work is too demanding to be passive about professional development. Being proactive about training will ensure that you stay sharp as an administrative professional and your career stays on track.

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