David Agosti

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." — Inigo Montoya The Princess Bride

And that word is... professional development.

Technically that's two words, but I'm sitting here at my home computer in "Presidential Detention" (because I missed writing last month's article) looking at my workload, my home office, and contemplating my life and career choices.

Professional development refers to the acquisition of skills and knowledge both for personal development and career advancement; although, if you search the internet, Wikipedia, business dictionaries, and others give slightly different meanings, but that's the definition that I think best applies to APSA members.

Professional Development (PD) Funds (Policy AD 10.11)

As an APSA member, you have access to professional development funds as part of the employment agreement APSA has negotiated with the University. You have $700 annually to spend, and can bank up to $3,500.

More information can be found here.

Two quick notes:

  1. The webpage I linked states there are a "number of professional development opportunities for APSA Employees," including information on tuition waivers, etc.
  2. The link to what qualifies for professional development funds appears broken. I encourage you to contact HR before making a purchase (note the APSA list and the SFUFA list are different). Contact APSA staff at apsa@sfu.ca if there's something that is not on the list that you think should be on the list.

APSA workshops

As part of the education component of APSA's mission of educating, negotiating and advocating for our members, we offer professional development courses. One of our most popular historically offered courses was Managing Up, and we have upcoming courses on Team Dynamics and Situational Leadership.

APSA courses are found on our website here (you will have to log in).

Our courses are member-driven, so if you have any ideas for offerings/topics related to personal development or career advancement, please contact the APSA staff at apsa@sfu.ca.

SFU HR Training Courses

There is a distinction between training and professional development. Training is to help you do the job you were hired to do. For example, a course on attendance management would be training, not professional development. On the other hand, if your position requires a bachelor's degree and you wanted to pursue a master's in the same field, that would be professional development.

At the bottom of the SFU website, which I linked above (Professional Development), there are links to in-house courses offered by SFU HR. There's a course on anti-racism and ally-ship (professional development) and a course on filling out timesheets (training). Be sure to take advantage of whatever offerings are important to you.

COVID Complicates Everything

Although I try to keep professional development and training distinct, there is always overlap. COVID-19 is blurring the lines even further.

If you wanted to use your PD funds for a home computer to take an online course — definitely PD. But if SFU expects you to work from home and need a new computer for a home office? Probably not PD although there have been some recent changes.

What about membership in a professional organization? If that membership is not a requirement of employment — definitely PD. But sometimes, it may be beneficial to the University to talk about taking out an organizational membership (with all of its perks) instead of using your PD funds on a personal membership. Contact APSA staff at apsa@sfu.ca if you'd like advice on how to go about doing this.

Lastly — a quick note on how I'm always saying "contact APSA staff." This is because as a member-driven organization, the more we know, the more we can engage and collaboratively advocate for you with the University:

  1. APSA staff can help make you money / save you money by correctly using PD funds.
  2. When you contact the APSA staff, that lets us know about your issue. If many people have the same concerns, we can raise it anonymously with the University (otherwise, we don't know the issue exists).
  3. The more people ask for APSA courses, the more we can identify the need for them (and spend your dues on the things you want). Conversely, if what is being requested of APSA is really training and should be an HR course, we can make those suggestions to the University.


That's a lot to digest — I promise to talk (write) less next month.