IT training will eat up a large chunk of most learning and development (L&D) budgets. Technology is constantly changing, so IT products will continue to flow into the market and the need to train staff to use them will follow.
IT training is big business. The National Institute for Continuing Adult Education (NIACE), in its 2009 report on lifelong learning, estimated that there are 12,300 private training providers in the UK and 1,300 of them are providers of IT training.
Trainers include QA, an IT specialist which uses about 200 training consultants to run over 1,500 courses from 20 locations. Other big IT training providers are Learning Tree International and software supplier SAP.
NIACE estimated that the private training market was worth £2.95 billion in 2008 (in terms of money spent with private training providers), while market researcher Key Note believes it was worth £3.14 billion in 2009. The IT training market alone accounted for about £661 million in 2009.
Before you buy any training, there are several issues to address, and responsibility for IT training within an organisation is not always clear.
In larger organisations, there may be a split between the IT department, which looks after some L&D, and the training arm, which tends to other areas. It may also be the case that the IT department will provide some training, especially when widely used applications, such as Word or email systems, are upgraded.
Or it may be that the IT department looks after training for its own staff, with the L&D function looking after the training needs of other staff, the end users.
Often, the lines are blurred. You need to decide who is responsible before making any training decisions - particularly where budgets are concerned.
Before you buy or design IT training, ask the stakeholders:
What new systems and upgrades will be rolled out over the coming year?
IT training, more than any other, can quickly become outdated as products and technology develop. You need to strike a balance here and provide up-to-date training that will remain relevant for as long as possible. Sit down with the head of your IT department to plot out the next technological developments and any related training your staff will need.
What training, if any, will the supplier provide as part of a purchase or licensing deal?
If your company is buying equipment or IT processes, find out if training is part of the initial package. You must also find out if subsequent recruits are also entitled to this training.
Will the trainer provide follow-up training, if and when the product is upgraded?
If the product is very straightforward, your IT department should be able to provide follow-up training - depending on the number of staff to be trained. But it may be simplest to get the trainer to provide it. Make sure this is part of your initial contract.
What IT training do new recruits need?
Aside from the obvious - email, the company intranet, the phone system - many employees in jobs not traditionally seen as technological in focus now need to be comfortable with an array of IT systems and tools. Plumbers and engineers, for instance, will need to be trained to use hand-held devices, as will some delivery people.
What development do IT staff need?
Remember that your IT staff themselves will need development - knowing how to use technology is one thing, but knowing how to get the best from it requires proper development. This is something to discuss with your IT director or chief information officer - they will know what the company's IT strategy requires from staff.
If e-learning is provided, does it include IT training, and if so, what?
Before jumping on the e-learning bandwagon, take a close look at what is on offer. E-learning will not always be suited to IT training - it will depend both on the product or system being introduced and the knowledge and ability of the staff being trained.
Who is responsible for which areas of IT training?
You need to know from the outset who is responsible for which area - if you don't, you risk neglecting areas or duplicating efforts.
How is the IT training budget to be split?
As soon as you know how responsibility is to be divided, you should be able to work out who pays for what.
How is the relationship between L&D and IT best managed and organised?
Rather than all of IT communicating with all of L&D, pick a representative or representatives from each team. Make sure communication is constant and in language that everyone understands. Catch-up meetings are essential as is the sharing of up-to-date information.