I’ve spent the past month or so interviewing professionals in various roles in the technology training industry. It’s been a lot of fun talking with these folks, each of whom is making a real contribution to the profession. My thanks to all of them for sharing their insights. To wrap up this series, I thought it might be worthwhile to conclude with my own impressions and thoughts.
In this series, Bruce Maples looked at the training industry through the eyes of professionals in four jobs in the field. In the first interview, he talked to Don Justice about his role as the manager of a training company. Then he got the inside view of a traveling trainer’s routine from Latifa Meena. When he talked to managers from a training brokerage, he explained how The Training Associates does business and where the brokers think the industry is going. Finally he learned about the battles an internal corporate trainer faces when he talked with Jerry Cappel.
Just as the interviews did not propose to offer a definitive view of the industry, this column is not a comprehensive “State of the Union” address. These are simply the themes that seemed to come up over and over again throughout my conversations about what trainers are facing today.

With that in mind, here’s what’s on my mind after doing the interviews.

  • The technical training industry is alive and well. Everyone said demand is up from last year, in some cases at an order of magnitude. Individuals, departments, entire corporations—all want training in some form. And everyone sees demand continuing to grow over the next few years. This is definitely a growth industry.
  • “Distributed training” in all its forms will continue to grow. I really liked Jerry Cappel’s use of this term for all the WBT/CBT/VBT formats, as well as distance learning. I also agree with his assessment that while distributed training will never replace end-user ILT completely, it will replace or augment classroom learning with motivated students, such as IT pros.
  • Career-changers are an increasingly important market segment. Don Justice indicated that career-changers now fill half the seats in classes at his company. I’ve seen much the same trend in my own classes. This presents both opportunity and challenge to the traditional training center, as new models of training and marketing must be developed. How do you reach these folks? What are their unique training needs? How do you manage widely varying levels of experience in a single class?
  • Supply and demand will continue to rule pay rates. The key to making good money as a trainer, either as an employee or contractor, is to develop competencies that hit the right mix of high demand and limited supply. Windows NT is probably taught more often than any other subject, but there’s also a huge supply of instructors for it—the rates for core courses aren’t that great. Training centers offer Exchange courses, but relatively few instructors are certified in Exchange, so you can still make pretty good money from those classes. And by the way, if you want to make the big bucks, forget desktop training. As Don said, “I can throw a rock out my front door and hit 10 desktop instructors.”
  • Trainers with good evals and current certs will always be able to find work. There simply aren’t enough good trainers (note the word “good”). If you have in-demand certs and your evals are consistently good, you can get work at a good rate. If you are willing to travel, you can make even better money.
  • Real-life experience will be required. Just as there is growing disdain for “paper MCSEs,” there’s also increasing demand for trainers with field experience. The more advanced the class, the greater the demand for real-world know-how.
  • The bar is going up. Face it, folks—our industry is maturing, as are our clients. Learners are expecting better materials, better instruction, and more applicability to their jobs. Time and money are too precious for students to put up with instructors who aren’t prepared, exercises that don’t illustrate the concept, training rooms that don’t support the class work, and courseware that doesn’t educate students. As the demand for training grows, so do clients’ expectations.

The challenges and changes ahead
Frankly, I’m excited about what I see and hear in our industry. There’s a lot of great teaching and real learning going on. It’s exciting and rewarding to be a part of it. As we work to meet the growing demand for technical training, let’s also do our best to meet the demands of that great and honorable word: teacher.

Bruce Maples is an author, trainer, speaker, and consultant living in Louisville.