Training offer sparks debate

A job within six months or half your money back. That's the tempting offer from Com Tech Education, which launched a three-month training course for would-be IT professionals last week. But recruitment agencies and competing training companies say it may not be worth even half the money.

A job within six months or half your money back. That's the tempting offer from training firm Com Tech Education, which launched a three-month training course for would-be IT professionals last week. But recruitment agencies and competing training companies say it may not be worth even half the money.

The course, which costs $9500, lasts three months and includes A+ service technician training, Microsoft Professional training and a three-day career finding course. Finance for the course is available through the National Bank at 8.5% over one-, two- and three-year terms. If students haven't found an entry-level IT role within three months of completing the course, they can get half their money back. According to general manager Steve Ross there are 3000 to 5000 IT jobs in New Zealand, of which 1400 were advertised last week. At any one time, 10% of IT jobs are unfilled, he says.

"The problem is there are lots of people out there with degrees and certification, but not enough entry-level staff to fill the jobs where they're needed. So we'll train people in specific usable skills. And if they don't get a job within three months then we're obviously not doing things right - so we'll give them half their money back."

However, Computerworld has spoken to a number of IT recruitment agencies which appeared unconvinced the course is worthwhile.

Doug White, managing director of Wilson White, says anyone wanting to get in to IT would need more training that could be fitted in a three-month course. "Do a two-year diploma at an institute, get a good grounding in IT, networking or whatever you're interested in and then come back to me."

There are quicker ways of training, he says, but only on specific topics. "You can get one-on-one training, some of which is very good, on an operating system or a language but it'll still take you between six months and a year."

Garry Collier, Candle Recruitment's global resourcing manager, says it doesn't sound as though the Com Tech course cover the skills his clients look for. "There's certainly a need for trained people but the training has to be relevant. Companies are looking for specific skills."

Collier says anyone wanting to move into IT needs to decide where they want to go. "What are their basic skills - are they good with people? Technology? Programming? They need to work out what's going to be best for them." If they have a reasonable familiarity with PCs, a basic course might take a matter of months, "but you have to be sure it's relevant".

ACE Training's Auckland manager Andrea Bartley agrees that students have to focus on a specific area. "They have to know the direction they want to go in before they start," she says. "We sit down with people, one on one, and talk about their ultimate goal - and then work back from there to where they should start."

Students can get a taste of different areas to help them decide, she says. "We run a one-day course in networking concepts, for example, to give people a feel for what it involves. We also get recruitment companies in to talk to them."

Overall, she would expect the transition from a non-IT profession to starting in the industry to take 18 months. "There are boot camps you can do, to cram it all in a couple of weeks - but they only take you once you have a high level of skill, anyway."

To become a Microsoft Systems Engineer would cost about $10,000, she says.

The National College of Multimedia and Training also helps people move in to the IT profession via its nine-month National Diploma in Computing which costs $8500, says director Alister Gates.

If students have a basic level of skill and proficiency with Windows, and operating system and a mouse, they will be able to train for the diploma. He agrees there are a lot of jobs available in the industry and says the diploma will help students get a foot in the door. But it takes the full nine months even if it's just to gain the hands-on experience.

However, Com Tech's Ross says many employers and agencies have expressed an interest in taking on students when they are finished. "The employers know they'll be getting the right skills and won't have to do the training themselves - and by paying the money the students have shown they're serious about their new career."

A similar course in Australia has 200 students and Ross is expecting the same kind of response here. Anyone, of any age, who can pass a "pre-test" is welcome on the course. The test is not hard, aiming only to identify "a basic passion and understanding of technology, good English and interpersonal skills", he says.

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