There are two sides to every coin. So it was no great surprise when resellers contacted ARN in response to a couple of stories we have printed in recent weeks where leading vendors bemoaned a shortage of skilled reseller partners. What has emerged is a picture of resellers who are less than satisfied with the training on offer. It seems there are a couple of major issues. Firstly, there is the problem of making sure that everybody on a course is starting from a similar knowledge base. Failure to do so means the trainer ends up catering to the lowest common denominator and the more skilled members of the group become frustrated or, even worse, disinterested. Having paid a significant sum to attend the course and given up their valuable time to be there, these people will leave the session with a less favourable opinion of the vendor or distributor conducting the training.
Another issue raised by resellers has been the quality of staff designated training responsibility - there are undoubtedly very good trainers out there but some are highly technical without having the relevant communication skills while others are engaging but are unable to provide adequate responses to practical queries.
Of course, developing training programs in a fast-moving and complicated industry such as IT is no easy matter. Keeping your material up to date and relevant is even more troublesome, especially when you have a huge portfolio of products and services such as Microsoft or Cisco. Many vendors are looking to cut out the middle man these days (so to speak) by putting more training modules online. This offers resellers the flexibility to complete training in their own time and is particularly useful for regional resellers that don't have the time to be flying staff into the big cities every time they need to complete a course.
Having said that, online education should never be allowed to become the de facto training model. In addition to learning new skills, the best training courses have also provided good networking opportunities for resellers with similar business models to come together and discuss the issues they are facing. Meeting your distribution and vendor partners at such events can also help establish bonds that prove valuable next time you need to ask for special logistical arrangements or pricing. It would be a shame for that to be lost and smaller businesses in particular would be poorer for it.
As for the bigger problem of an industry-wide skills shortage, I liked Bruce McCurdy's suggestion that we need to introduce an apprenticeship program (see page 1 of ARN, September 14). Universities are spitting out a conveyer belt of graduates with paper qualifications but no real-world experience. Many of these talented young minds spend six months or a year looking for suitable industry employment before drifting away into other industries, lost to IT forever because their skills are quickly out of date if they are not in practical use.
Something needs to be done to stop this industry brain drain and I would like to hear your suggestions.