By Jonathan Lurie and Samuel Lurie

In the past, you may have sent your development staff to the nearest authorized training facility to gain familiarity with the latest languages. But if budget constraints are preventing you from getting your staff members the training they need, maybe you should consider “insourcing.” By bringing the trainer to you, your staff can be trained in familiar environs and for less money. Let’s look at the cost and quality factors, as well as how to find topnotch trainers.

Lowering cost
Let’s suppose that you’re currently considering migrating your six-person development staff to Visual Basic .NET. Traditionally, you’d approach your nearest Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC) to get an outline for courses that are available for corporate clients, and with six people, you might even receive a discount. So if the listed price is $2,000 per week per person, you might get that down to $1,600 per person, totaling $9,600.

Now let’s consider the alternative of insourcing the training. A contract trainer typically makes anywhere from $500 per day to $1,200 per day, depending on experience, availability, and desperation. If the class covers something more esoteric, such as Microsoft Solutions Framework, the fees may be a little higher. But remember, if you don’t like the price that a perspective trainer quotes, you can negotiate.

You should always compare prices by calculating the cost per person per day. Some trainers may stipulate the maximum number of students they’re willing to have in their class, in part so that you may need to hire them for a second or maybe a third class. Don’t be afraid to negotiate this. Tell them straight up that it’s a little too expensive and ask them what they can do for you. With the Visual Basic .NET example, you should easily be able to find someone in the $500 to $1,200/day range.

Even better—and even less known—is the fact that any Microsoft Certified Partner can order the Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC). Many of the CTECs don’t advertise this, for obvious reasons. Part of the attraction of the CTEC is that they provide the MOC. But, in fact, it’s now easily attainable without going to a CTEC. Let’s say you purchase the MOC for your six students. The MOC is fairly expensive and can be as high as $250 per student. So you would spend $1,500 on the curriculum and about $5,000 for the trainer. And of course, you would be expected to provide the facility and the computers, although that might not cost you anything extra if you have the space and computers available. In this scenario, you could save at least $3,000.

The big factor with insourcing the training is the number of people attending. Clearly, this model becomes less cost effective if you have only two or three trainees.

Contact Microsoft’s Courseware Order Center

You can order Microsoft official curriculum on the Web or by calling 1-800-456 1766.

Quality of training
The expertise that the trainer brings to the classroom is just as important, and I would argue even more important, than the cost of the training. Unfortunately, any Microsoft Certified Trainer can teach any Microsoft Course. This gives rise to enormous variance in the quality of instruction delivered. Unscrupulous training centers often put inept trainers in front of classes to avoid the cost of hiring a contract trainer. This defeats the entire purpose. Insourcing your training allows you to assess the expertise of the instructor before making a commitment. I’ve seen many trainers who do little more that offer flip-pages. Your employees can read the material on their own. The trainer should expand on the book examples and explain how a concept or technique is implemented in the real world. When deciding on a training provider, look for Microsoft endorsements, such as CTEC of the Year.

The right content
Customizing the curriculum to fit your needs is another advantage of insourcing. More often than not, a standard curriculum contains information that is completely irrelevant to your needs. Rather than pay for this wasted time, you can have a course customized if you insource. Training centers are often under contract to use the official curriculum without modification. If you’re the only company represented in the class, you can often request a custom curriculum, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the trainer can teach it.

Locating a trainer
There are many avenues for finding a trainer. Trainers frequent many of the job boards used for traditional employment. Posting an ad on Monster or HotJobs may yield results. There are also several brokerages that can subcontract a trainer to you for a day, a week, or a month. The advantage of using such an organization is that it can provide you with many trainers’ resumes for you to choose from. The largest training broker is The Training Associates. I have worked with them many times and found them to be an ethical and reliable organization.

Insourcing your training won’t work in every case. After some analysis, you might decide that the savings aren’t worth the effort. Just be aware that there are other advantages besides cost savings, such as increased quality of trainer and content, that might give you cause to tip the balance toward choosing insourcing to provide training for your staff.

Effective training solutions

What has worked well for you when it comes to training your staff on the hot new stuff? How about training solutions for legacy technologies? Send us an e-mail with your thoughts and suggestions or post a comment below.