Professional development support directive

This directive covers professional development available to APS employees, approving requests and financial supports.

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About this directive

Reference to applicable legislation (act or regulation): Section 6(1)(d),(e), Public Service Act
Application: All employees appointed or employed pursuant to the Public Service Act within a department, as defined in sections 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii) of the Public Service Act, with the exception of wage employees.
Last updated: February 2022
Last reviewed: February 2022
Amended by: Alberta Public Service Commission:
Strategic Services and Public Agency Secretariat, Workforce Development and Analytics


This directive applies to all Alberta Public Service (APS) employees, with exception of wage staff; and provides direction on the available supports for corporate learning and professional development. It also reflects the commitment to continuous learning and development (L&D) that is based on the following L&D principles when approving such requests in the APS:

  • the learning activity must demonstrate fiscal prudence and adds value to the APS by supporting business objectives and priorities
  • the learning must be applicable to the employee’s current role with the ability to apply the learning on the job, and
  • there should be minimal operational impact to the work area and other staff members when engaging in the learning activity


This directive contains information on the types of professional development available to APS employees, approving requests, as well as financial support for learning and professional designations, and leave provisions.

Types of available professional development

L&D opportunities are offered internally through the APS and externally through outside organizations.

  • Internal APS professional development

    The APS Professional Development (PD) Framework, identifies learning pathways to guide the professional development for all employee groups (for example, employees/supervisors, managers, and executive managers). The framework consists of mandatory training, core development supports, self-directed learning, and training to enhance proficiency (elective training).

    • Mandatory training – Includes training that is deemed a condition of employment and is compulsory for employees to complete when they join the APS and/or are new to role to enable their success.
    • Core development training – Includes programs and courses that develop the technical and behavioral competencies required to perform the core functions of an employee’s role.
    • Self-directed learning – Includes non-instructor-led and/or experiential learning activities that are available throughout an employee’s career journey. Such learning may also be offered through informal means, such as learning through resources, learning through people, and learning on-the-job.
    • Proficiency enhancement (elective training) – Includes programs and courses that support the competencies required to enhance an employee’s proficiency.

    Approval for L&D requests is subject to the HR Decision Matrix.

  • External professional development

    Employees may request to participate in L&D training and activities provided by external organizations. These may include professional designations, including relevant training/learning events, post-secondary education and general interest professional development. An External Learning Authorization Form is required for all external requests.

    • Professional designations – Includes associated memberships, certifications, licensing, professional development, etc. that are required for professional practice.
    • Post-secondary education – Includes open studies’ course work, or courses that pertain to diplomas, certificates, undergraduate or graduate degrees, or other educational programs, etc.
    • General interest professional development – Includes attendance at conferences, webinars, workshops and other training that either directly or broadly pertains to the employee’s current or future role.

Approving professional development

Approval of L&D requests is based on the L&D principles above.

Where possible, employees should default to seek out L&D opportunities offered internally within the APS. Fiscal responsibility must be demonstrated by selecting professional development that is no to low cost, as defined by the responsible Deputy Head.

Employees must discuss and submit requests for L&D activities to their supervisors. Approvals are at the discretion of the appropriate decision makers in the HR Decision Matrix.

For internal training requests under the PD Framework:

  • Mandatory training – Must be approved for all employees.
  • Core development training – Must be approved for target employee groups.
  • Self-directed learning and proficiency enhancement (elective training) – Approvals are discretionary based on the principles outlined above.

Financial support for external training, such as post-secondary education and general interest professional development are not permissible in periods of fiscal restraint. Exceptions to this shall be approved by the deputy head based on the principles outlined above.

All approved professional development activities must be the result of discussions with the supervisor and identified in the employee’s Performance Agreement.

Financial support for professional development

As approval for financial support may include associated costs such as registration fees, travel, time away from the worksite, etc., expense approvals must comply with the Government of Alberta’s Travel, Meal and Hospitality Expenses Policy.

Upon approval, financial support for professional development activities may be provided in various ways including:

  • The APS pays the cost directly.
  • Employees are reimbursed the cost of the professional development and/or other approved expenses upon completion of the L&D activity (for example, travel, course fee, etc.). Original receipts must be provided for reimbursement. Expenses are subject to department finance processing policies.

If the L&D initiative is considered to be of significant investment by the responsible Deputy Head, the employee may be required to enter into a Return Service Agreement. More information can be found in the Return Service Commitment for Professional Development Directive.

  • Professional designations

    Financial support is provided for professional designations, including associated maintenance requirements that are mandatory and required for an employee’s current role.

    When a professional designation is not required, but pertains directly to an employee’s current role, financial support should be provided. This does not include financial support for associated maintenance requirements.

    Support for professional designations must be approved in accordance with the HR Decision Matrix and must fulfill the below criteria:

    • The professional designation must be required by and/or pertain directly to their current role.
      • If a specific designation is required for a position, it must be identified as a mandatory requirement in the job description/profile and job advertisement.
    • Support to maintain and/or achieve the professional designation and its requirements must be identified and agreed upon in the employee’s Performance Agreement.
    • Employees must be in good standing with their professional regulatory body.
  • Alternate financing for learning and development

    In discussions with their supervisor, employees may propose alternate approaches to jointly fund L&D initiatives in partnership with the APS. This may include employees paying for portions of costs themselves, or accessing funds via their benefit plans.

    Approvals for such requests, including time commitment away from work, are to be made in accordance with the HR Decision Matrix.