Blending consulting with training, mentoring – and work

Clients are demanding flexibility from training providers, and getting it

Pressure in and from corporate IT departments is leading to new approaches in training that allow user organisations to take more control of the process and limit the impact on the organisation.

Trainers are adopting a range of strategies to meet their customers’ needs, including breaking courses up into smaller modules, delivering training on-site or even on-site and on the job, and providing consultancy services and mentoring at the same time.

One such company is Wellington-based Equinox, which bills itself as a software development and consulting company but also operates a subsidiary called Equinox Learning. The company specialises in business analysis, software development and testing, which are also the focus of its training and mentoring activities.

Training in software testing is provided to International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) certification level. The ISTQB Foundation Certificate is an internationally recognised foundation certificate for software testers. ISTQB replaces the previous ISEB Foundation Certificate.

Equinox’s managing director, Roger Dalgleish, says his company provides material from Australian company Planet and the qualification is a de facto standard in Australasia. Equinox has also been involved in launching the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) certification here.

The programme had problems getting off the ground this year as few people could meet the qualification standard by the proposed launch date. However, Dalgleish says this has now been put back until February and he expects that will give candidates more time to prepare and meet those criteria.

Equinox is sending its own people overseas to take the certification before helping to launch the programme here.

Equinox has also developed its own business analysis course curriculum, which it is aiming to launch globally. Dalgleish says the curriculum is of a high calibre and Equinox is the first New Zealand institution to have such material approved in the US. He says the material includes a lot of local examples and is presented by senior consultants rather than trainers.

Equinox has a public training schedule for organisations and individuals who want to receive their training in that way. However, it also goes into client companies, often before a project kicks off, to deliver skills and mentoring and, after the project is under way, to provide further analysis. The client’s software development methodology can be overlaid on the training material and presented in a mentoring style on-site as well.

“It’s a blend of training and mentoring, not a classroom event,” Dalgliesh says.

Equinox is using internet and computer-based delivery, as many trainers do, but is also in the early stages of looking at social networking technologies to see how those can be worked into the training model.

Brendan Livingstone, the manager of Equinox Learning says clients are also trying to reduce the impact of training on IT operations and development. The result is more highly modularised courses, taken in a day rather than three or four, that clients can mix and match to meet their specific needs and development plans.

The benefits of structured training and development are clear, adds Dalgliesh.

“Clients recognise that if you invest in people you get a better retention rate,” he says.

Livingstone says the company works with clients to create staff development plans which not only help retain staff interested in their own advancement, but also to attract staff in a difficult market.

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Tags software testingmentoringSpecial IDEquinoxon-site training

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