Finding the Right CTEC

A CTEC's closing can affect many people, including students. Here are nine ways to protect yourself and your investment.

What happened to many of the contract MCTs and employees at Global Training Solutions (GTS) is disheartening. It's always hard when a training school shuts down partially or completely, but not only because some folks are out of a job. It's perhaps hardest of all on students who have often taken out large loans and invested huge quantities of time studying and practicing for certification exams.

Read the whole series:
Part 1: Outraged Ex-Employees of Training Company Allege Theft, Fraud

Part 2: A Pattern of Intentional Non-Payment

Part 3: What's Happening with Training Companies?

There's usually no way to predict if a CTEC is in financial trouble. Most are very good at downplaying any indications that everything isn't hunky-dory; and none, of course, will try to talk you out of enrolling because there's a chance they might not be around to see your education through to the end. But there are ways you can minimize your chances of choosing a bad CTEC or having your loan become an albatross around your neck if the school closes.

  • Don't choose a school just because it has national reputation. Many national CTECs are franchises, and just as the quality of food can vary from one Taco Bell to the next, the quality of training can be markedly different in different schools from the same company.
  • Don't sign up with the first CTEC you check out. It might be great, but you may find one that's even greater through more checking. Also, you won't have any basis for comparison if you only examine one or two schools. Remember: This is your future you're investing in. Take the time to find the school that meets your particular needs.
  • There's no substitute for sitting in on a class and experiencing it for yourself. Any CTEC worth its salt will allow a prospective student to sit in on a class or two. Try to sit in on one that's teaching the same course as one you want to take. If a CTEC won't let you do that, run the other way.
  • Talk to other students about their experiences at the CTEC and get lists of former students you can call. Ask questions: Were their instructors well prepared? Do they have real-world experience, or are they career-changers who just got their MCSEs last year and started teaching right away? Is the equipment current? How good is the placement office? When calling previous students, ask if the training they received helped prepare them for their IT jobs.
  • Ask to see student evaluations of instructors. If they refuse, follow the previous advice and find another school that will.
  • Try to avoid paying for a whole track in advance. If you're going for an MCSE, MCDBA, or other certification, pay on a per-class basis rather than all at once. That way, if a school closes, you'll have paid only for the classes you've actually taken. If it closes in the middle of a class, you'll only be out a little bit of money (and maybe a lot of time), instead of losing your entire $6,000, $8,000 or $11,000 investment. A CTEC may refuse to do this, but be firm: Most are so desperate for students these days that they may accommodate you.

The other advantage of this, if you take out a loan to pay for your education, is that you can use the rest of your loan money to transfer to a different school or pay off the balance more quickly. It won't be in the hands of the bankrupt company.

  • Many states require training companies to be licensed to train individuals. Check with your state on the rules. If it requires licensure, you may have some legal recourse if the school shuts down.
  • Your chances of getting solid, consistent training are enhanced if the CTEC uses primarily full-time MCTs instead of contract trainers. There's a greater likelihood that a full-time instructor will be there the entire length of your training, as a contractor's schedule tends to be less predictable—and the position a bit more expendable by the training firm that's hired him or her.
  • If there are no CTECs nearby, or none that impresses you, consider online training. The technology is getting better all the time, allowing more interaction between teachers and students. Most online training companies are also adding more hands-on components, connecting students to live servers through Terminal Services and other connectivity options, better simulating the work you'll do in an actual production environment.

For its part, Microsoft declined to answer specific questions about GTS, including whether it's investigating the company or plans to take any action against the CTEC. It issued the following statement: "Microsoft takes our partner and customer relationships seriously. We establish annual guidelines and requirements in an effort to ensure the highest quality customer experience. We continually work to build relationships with Microsoft CTECs who share our values. If Microsoft determines that a Microsoft CTEC partner is not operating within, or upholding, the program agreement then we are committed to evaluating the issues and ensuring that there is a resolution."

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.


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