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Catch the Right Train

How to tell a training deal from a dud.

You’ve made the decision to increase your professional value by seeking quality IT training? Well, remember: Quality is the key word here. Whether you made your decision because you’re trying to find a new job, you seek professional growth at your current job, or you simply believe extra training will offer you some job security, at least, you have decided to be proactive. Some people choose a wait-and-see mode to their career, but you have decided to take charge of your career direction; thereby, affecting your own personal and professional growth.

According to the 2004 Workforce Development Survey conducted by the Information Technology Association of America, 55 percent of hiring managers placed value on their employees skills when they pursued formal, on-the-job training programs and 56 percent placed value on the skills attained from certification programs.

Meanwhile, 71 percent of employers perceived certification or continuing education programs to be important or very important to the career advancement of their employees.

Don’t underestimate the importance of experience, which ranked as the highest predictor of employers seeing value in the technical skill of current or future employees. But experience with new or improved IT skills packs a powerful punch when attempting to advance your career.

Now that the decision has been made to seek training; the big question is, what do you look for when seeking quality training? You know you want to find training that will allow you to walk away with the skills necessary for career growth. The big question is, what will give you the most value for your dollar?

To help answer this question, I turned to some experts in the field of IT training that would give us deeper insight into how to determine if the training being pursued is a deal or a dud.

— How would you define quality IT training?

Robert Vaughn, veteran IT consultant (who also happens to be my husband and business partner): “Quality IT training consist of exposing students to real-world challenges and teaches them the skills to solve these challenges”.

James Smith, sales manager of Texas-based training provider EduCorp: “The experience should provide students with a variety of learning methods and real world examples that reinforce the concepts covered in the class.”

Michael Chevalier, market research analyst for North Carolina-based Global Knowledge: “There are many ways to define quality, but if we define it based on what is important to IT professionals, then the answer would be a training program that focuses more on current, applicable skills than on passing an exam for certification.”

— What should prospective customers look for when seeking quality IT training?

Smith: “Prospective customers should look for an organization that has a good reputation, has been in business for a long time and has the ability to customize classes.”

Chevalier: “Students will achieve better results with courses that are hands-on and that include peer participation directed by industry-experienced instructors.”

Vaughn: “Check for at least five references and find out if they stand behind their guarantees. Compare cost, curriculum, instructor qualifications, references, and guarantees.” He also believes the customer should find a training center that is certified by their state agency that oversees education and training facilities.

— Is there one distinct primary element they should initially focus on when inquiring about different training programs?

Chevalier: “Certainly not price first. Consider instead the quality of the course content.”

Vaughn: “Make sure that you’re comfortable first with the company.”

Smith: “The most important distinction that a training provider can offer is their customer satisfaction policy.”

The bottom line is that you must do your homework and be diligent when seeking a best fit training program for your needs. In the end, I’m sure you will find your efforts were well worth it.

Felicia H. Vaughn, M.Ed., is a certified career management coach. E-mail her at

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