Most IT trainers have at some point found themselves confidently stating that more training is the way to fill the IT skills gap.
This makes good sense - more training equals more skills. But training does not exist in isolation, and trainers need to recognise and develop their role in the broader IT industry.
Before we can train people to be IT professionals, we have to find these people, convince them of the value of a career in IT and demonstrate the value of training.
If we are serious about them filling the skills gap, we have to make sure our training is relevant, give students industry-recognised certifications and help them find available jobs.
Being a good trainer doesn’t necessarily mean you are good at marketing or networking. Areas such as student recruitment, training programme development and turning training into employment may fall outside many trainers’ everyday experience, but they need to be done.
One of the best ways to do these things is to tap into existing networks and learn from the success of others.
Before any training can be done, courses need to be marketed. How you actually market - through posters, working with local schools or businesses, communicating to existing pupils - depends on what works for you.
The critical factor when developing these communication activities is understanding what your course offers to the student and demonstrating the value it has brought to others. This means knowing the relevance of the courses and qualifications you offer.
Trainers should take time to talk to employers and previous students about how they benefitted from the course and develop case studies to highlight these benefits.
Being able to offer funded places also offers a big draw for students, so understanding funding options is important. Many of those who develop certifications provide information on getting them funded.
Yet even with guides, securing funding isn’t always easy and ongoing liaison with others who are helping students through the funding process, to share successes and failures, can be extremely valuable.
Students also value advice on picking the course that’s right for them and this can be a critical factor in them completing it and using it in their career. Giving such advice requires a good understanding of industry issues and available jobs.
The best trainers can sit down with a potential student, find out their interests, identify which courses and certifications suit them and tell them which job roles they could get, naming specific companies which might employ them. Doing this effectively means keeping up-to-date with industry issues by talking to employers and other trainers on a regular basis.
Developing training programmes
Listening to what students and employers want will give trainers a good idea of what curriculums will be most valuable to students.
Most organisations teach to curriculums that lead to specific examination or certifications. This works well where certifications have been designed to assess important industry skills, but curriculums should be regularly reviewed to ensure they remain relevant to industry.
Trainers should be continually liaising with students, employers and other trainers to ensure they are aware of the skills and certifications most valued by industry. They should ensure students have the skills to pass these certifications as well as other skills that reflect changing needs.
Turning training into employment
Too many students train, but don’t make anything of it, and this an area where trainers can provide real value.
Encouraging students to take certifications is an important and proven part of increasing the chances of employment. Certification accredits training, provides assurance to potential employers and gives students confidence in applying for jobs.
If possible, trainers should sell courses and certifications as a complete package. Exams success is good for the student, but also reflects well on the trainer, which in turn helps with future recruitment.
Once students are armed with certifications, the next step is for them to find work. Students are more attracted to training organisations with a track record of securing employment for students, so spending time developing your network of employers is worth its weight in gold.
Forming links with local, national or even international employers is perfectly achievable, but requires effort. This can be done by simply calling them up or by joining online forums, such as LinkedIn groups, HR forums or IT member forums.
Employers don’t want to pay to recruit, so having strong links with IT trainers is in their interests, but you have to work to get in front of them and demonstrate your students are worth considering as future employees.
It’s all about communication
IT training is not just about training people for IT. It’s a vital part of IT and needs to have a voice in the industry. We need to talk to employers, students and other educators to ensure we are constantly responding to change.
Most importantly we need to ensure we recruit, train, certify and find employment for enough students to meets the growing needs of IT.