Editor's Desk

Learning Curves

Has your training center hugged you today?

I’ve been thinking a lot about training lately, for several reasons.

First, I spoke recently with an MCSE who told me how he got his title after being in the networking business for a few years. He attended classes at a CTEC in southern California called EdNet Career Institute. While Nate considered the facilities there just “workable,” he found the staff highly supportive—which drove him to attend courses for five or six months, from 6 to 11 every night of the week. This wasn’t just book learning either. In every class, Nate recalls, the group had to troubleshoot technical problems. He went to a school that grounded him in handling the messy stuff. Then there’s Matthew, who signed off a recent email message to me: “PRINT THIS IF YOU DARE.” Why is Matthew so unhappy? Because he sees the “computer field as an enormous self-referential mass assembly line factory of certifications, certification upgrades, recertifications, $100 sylvan [sic] adaptive examinations, classes, vocational schools, books, cram courses, videos, all feeding off the frenzy of the fantasy of ‘too many IT jobs to fill.’”

I get the feeling that Matthew went to one of those schools that advertises on the radio and lures the listener with promises of a lucrative job as an MCSE in just weeks. Now Matthew says he’s going into real estate appraisal because “a mere $1,000” will get him into a field “in which people regularly make over $100K a year with constant demand.” Good luck, Matthew. Try to find a school that offers some hands-on instruction this time.

And then there’s the recent phone call I received from a prime-time news show that wants to blow the lid off sleaze-ball training facilities, a.k.a. MCSE mills. They’d heard from a number of viewers that rip-off artists abound in our industry, feeding on the frenzy of high salaries, seemingly limitless IT job openings on Dice.com and HotJobs.com, and an easy way to measure success: “Pass these tests and you’ll prove you’re an expert!”

Personally, I hope they don’t do the story, because it has the potential to harm companies trying to do a decent job of training IT professionals on new technologies—and it’ll call into question the value of all IT certifications. But you and I know those other companies are out there and the television crew can persuade itself it’s saving consumers from stupid decisions.

So, while we gird for prime-time treatment of the MCSE program, let’s share our own stories.

I’d like to hear about your training experiences—good and bad. Did you go to a top-notch facility or a rip-off joint? Tell me the name of the company, where it’s located, what you liked or hated, and what you plan to do next time you need some training. If you’ve got shopping advice for others seeking training, put that in your letter too.

We’ll publish as much as we can in an upcoming issue. I’m at [email protected].

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.


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