IT Professionals Lack On-the-Job Resources

Structured training courses have a time and a place, but because of the rapid development of technology, IT trainers must also provide an immediate, up-to-date resource that is integrated into the training curriculum.

When Safari Online Books, an on-demand digital library, recently surveyed 225 technology workers about the types of professional development offered by their organizations, 23 percent responded that they have structured training courses in-house; 20 percent have reimbursement for higher education; 13 percent have online courses; another 13 percent have informal training with peers and superiors; 11 percent have access to online information services; 2 percent have university certifications or accreditations; and 18 percent have none of the above.

Because of the lack of immediate in-house resources, these same respondents are turning to the Internet for their on-the-job questions. Roughly 80 percent of respondents search online one to three times a day for additional information to complete the task at hand; about 10 percent search online four or five times a day; and approximately 5 percent search online five or more times a day.

“What companies are telling me, especially when you talk about IT training, is that people will use online resources to find the latest content,” said Dennis Kilian, vice president and learning guru at Safari. “When you go out and construct a course, whether it is an e-learning course or an instructor-led course, it takes time to do that. It could be six months; it could be 12 months. [But] things change so fast, especially when you’re talking about some of the leading-edge technology issues, [that] by the time the courseware is out, the content is dated.”

Using the Internet for research can present some problems, as 45 percent of the respondents said “yes” when asked if they’ve ever used online information that was later found to be inaccurate.

“If you do something wrong, you could literally end up making the wrong decision on a configuration that you put in place. That, in the end, could cost your company not just time and rework, but dollars and efficiency,” Kilian said.

Because much learning happens on the job, IT trainers need to be one step ahead and provide up-to-date research for IT professionals. One way to accomplish this is by developing a database with relevant information on the company’s intranet.

“There are excellent courses out there that are delivered through the IT training organization and by IT trainers, but every day outside of that formal training, people are going out to the Internet to find information,” Kilian said.

“Companies are coming back with learning portals and they’re directing people [to them]. Somebody goes into a course, they go back to work, they start applying [what] they’ve learned and there has to be some sort of reference source there. And the trainer should know that, they should set it up, and it should be part of the curricula.”

In developing this resource, trainers will be adding value to their enterprises by creating perpetual learning environments.

“It’s something that doesn’t stop the moment that I either leave the classroom or check out of the e-learning suite,” Kilian said. “There’s a continuation, and it’s available to me anytime that I want an ongoing coaching or assistance tool.”

- Lindsay Edmonds Wickman, lwickman@certmag.com

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