IT training: supplier selection

After buyers decide what they want, they face the usual options: in-house, external or public courses. The latter are far more prevalent in IT training than in other fields.

Why? Because IT training is technology-hungry, and often requires the kind of investment that isn’t present in most user companies. As mentioned above, in-house IT staff can be used for basic desktop applications and for helping with one-off single-user training issues based on organisation-wide desktop systems such as email and workflow software.

Where several staff are to be trained to use an application new to the organisation, and it has adequately equipped training rooms, it may be wise to bring in an external trainer who specialises in that particular application. For more complicated or one-off IT training episodes, you will probably select appropriate public courses.

Richard Chappell, managing director of IT training company Learning Tree, says buyers should check if the courses they provide are “vendor free”. He explains: “Unfortunately, some courses are geared more towards selling than educating. Even worse, there’s no assurance that a vendor-based course is going to be forthcoming on all the aspects of its product, including its flaws.”

Seven supplier selection tips:

  1. Involve a senior IT employee or expert to advise
    They are well placed to know exactly what is needed. 
  2. Leave IT staff training to the IT department
    The IT department will know its staff’s capabilities, and the extent of any previous training. They will also have a clearer idea than you of how the effects of the training will be used. 
  3. But, if you are the budget holder, get involved in supplier selection
    If you are contributing to the cost of training, you should be part of the decision-making process. While the IT department will understand the technical aspects of the training, as the L&D or training manager, you should have a better idea of actual training techniques. 
  4. If running in-house courses, ensure you have properly equipped training rooms
    There is no point organising in-house IT training if you don’t have training rooms with the appropriate equipment and software. If you don’t, you will need to factor the cost of room hire into the overall cost of training. 
  5. If selecting an IT trainer to provide in-house training, brief them fully and ask them to put on a short trial session on your site
    See how trainers perform in your environment, rather than theirs – this will give you an idea of how their style of training will work with your company culture. 
  6. Once you select a trainer, resolve technical issues
    Sort out technical issues well before course start dates. Candidates will have rearranged their workloads to attend courses, and do not need to have their time wasted by trainers and training managers dealing with technical problems that could have been solved well in advance. 
  7. If selecting a provider to supply external or public courses, arrange an inspection visit or sit in on a training event
    Make the most of any chances you are given to see trainers in practice. This will give you an idea of their knowledge of the products and systems involved, as well as allowing you to see if they interact well with course attendees.

Accreditation and certification advice

It is especially important for IT staff that, where appropriate, their training is accredited, usually by the suppliers of application or systems software. This can be essential to their professional development. For example, project management courses are usually accredited to PRINCE standards, which enable those passing the courses to earn professional development points.

Some providers of IT training also insist that trainers be certified. Microsoft runs a certified partner scheme, through its Learning Solutions operation, which sets out certain requirements for certified providers of training.

These include the stipulation that such providers employ Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs). Microsoft says it supports MCTs in various ways, including preparing them to present new products and new courses. The company has accredited 894 training “associates” in the UK and about one million people attain some sort of Microsoft certification a year.

Before choosing an accredited trainer, ask your IT department for its input. Draw up a list of the various types of IT training and skills for which accreditation is available – make sure suppliers can prove they are qualified to offer accreditation. And ask how often accreditation and certification are updated.

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