What's Happening with Training Companies?
Florida-based GTS is an extreme example of what's happened in the broader computer training industry, but some CTECs have managed to remain in business with reputations intact.
The Florida-based Certified Technical Education Center GTS is an extreme
example of what's happened in the broader computer training industry.
Since the bottom fell out in the late 1990s, Microsoft CTECs and other
training companies have hemorrhaged students, operating cash and profits.
For many, the wounds never clotted.
Keep in mind that not all training schools are CTECs. A CTEC must be
authorized by Microsoft, have at least two Microsoft Certified Trainers
that teach there and nowhere else, and use the Microsoft Official Curriculum
(MOC). A non-CTEC training school can still teach students on Microsoft
technologies and to pass Microsoft certification tests, but can't use
the MOC and can't identify itself as a Microsoft CTEC.
on this article:
1: Outraged Ex-Employees of Training Company
Allege Theft, Fraud
2: A Pattern of Intentional Non-Payment
While there are no hard and fast figures available, those in the industry
are well aware of the massive numbers of CTECs and training schools that
have folded over the last several years:
- Hyattsville, Maryland-based Unisoft School of Technology closed abruptly
last Feb. 3 and left hundreds of students and teachers deep in debt.
- In mid-October of last year, Xintra Computer College in Ottawa shut
down, "leaving students out in the cold after having paid between $3,000
and $4,000 for courses," according to a local newspaper report.
- One of the biggest and most well known CTECs of all, Computer Learning
Center, based in Manassas, Virginia, closed the doors of all 25 schools
nationwide in early 2001. About 10,000 students were left in the lurch
when CLC went belly-up.
That's only a smattering of the closings nationwide, and it's undoubtedly
not the end of the carnage. Has the bottom fallen out of the CTEC industry?
Not necessarily, says Hugh Whelchel, general sales manager for the mid-Atlantic
region of Computer Education Services Corporation. CESC has 12 offices
up and down the East Coast, and several hundred employees.
CESC has bucked the trend of CTECs, making money last year, and projected
to be even more profitable in 2003, Whelchel said. CESC is doing well
because it's mostly abandoned what he said is the outdated notion of individual
"We've been moving away from individual certification tracks and focusing
more on corporate clients than individuals. [The previous CTEC] emphasis
has been on the career-changer market. That market really doesn't exist
any more," Whelchel said. CESC has partnered with different institutions,
including Boston University, and corporations to broaden its range of
It's the same approach taken by Anaheim, California-based New Horizons,
which says it has the largest CTEC network in the world. It has about
280 training centers in 51 different countries, according to Gene Longobardi,
Senior Vice-President for Global Franchise Operations. Roughly 85 percent
of those centers are CTECs.
New Horizons has been affected like most of the rest of the industry,
losing money in both 2001 and 2002, Longobardi said. But he expects a
turnaround this year and believes New Horizons will be back to profitability.
New Horizons didn't suffer as much as some other companies in the industry,
because it's traditionally gone after the business market anyway, up to
80-85 percent, as compared to about 10 percent individual training, Longobardi
said. But, like CESC, it's been branching out into more non-traditional
"We've started to move into business skills. Career-changers and IT pros
need business skills to make them more effective and productive," Longobardi
said. "We started with project management and [added] different business
skills classes, like presentation skills, time-management and meeting
management skills." Although it's early, Longobardi said New Horizons
is encouraged by the response from clients.
What companies want these days, Whelchel commented, "is employees to
have certain skill sets to help them do their jobs better. We customize
the curriculum so that they can meet those skill sets. We ask them, 'What
do you want your employees to do?' and tailor their training to those
specifications," he said.
Whelchel sees several reasons why training companies have been struggling.
Reason No. 1, he believes, is that they're "living in the past, putting
way too much emphasis on certification and not on meeting the needs of
corporate clients. I think the individual market has moved to community
colleges and other colleges. There's not enough there to support all the
training firms." He calls it the "butts in seats" CTEC business model:
filling up classrooms with career-changers and individual title-pursuers.
The second reason, Whelchel said, is that so many companies rode the
wave of certification in the mid- and late-1990s, when it appeared that
anyone could start a training operation and rake in cash, and it didn't
take savvy leaders to do it. "There's a real lack of leadership in industry,
[and the CTEC market, especially] got completely saturated. Now we're
seeing the fallout. The ways to make money in '97, '98 and '99 don't work
now," Whelchel said.
A subtle silver lining has been the weeding out of the "paper" MCTs.
"When things were red hot, we couldn't create instructors fast enough,"
Longobardi said, and it often didn't matter whether they had real-world
experience. "With the last two years of belt-tightening, contract instructors
[with strong IT backgrounds] are starving and coming back to our training
centers" looking for full-time work. "The [quality] level of our instructors
has risen dramatically over the last several years."
Despite the drastic shakeout, Whelchel feels confident about the future
of CTECs. "The death of instructor-led training been has been well-documented,
but I don't think it's going to happen. The type of people in our industry
enjoy coming to class and being with their peers. There's a social dynamic
there, a social element that will keep instructor-led training at the
forefront of industry." Just not in the same form as the salad days of
the last decade.
While people like Whelchel and Longobardi remain optimistic about CTECs
and their chances for survival, others, especially those who feel burned
by their experiences at GTS, are less enthusiastic. They echo the sentiment
of MCT Charles Gardner, who said he's owed $6,700 by Eric Schaer and his
company: "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug."
Next: Finding the Right CTEC
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.