By Mike Sullivan

Imagine getting a call from your local technical training center telling you that they were going to be offering a course on Windows NT and the teacher was going to be David Cuttler. What if it were Mark Minasi, Brian Moran, or any other recognized expert in the field? Would you sign up for it? Would you pay a premium price?

I believe that most experienced administrators would give an arm and a leg for such an opportunity. Every mature industry produces products that cater to multiple markets. The auto industry produces a wide variety of cars, ranging from economy to luxury. Technical training today is only offering economy cars.

The principle is simple. If you can provide a valuable training service to the largely untapped market of experienced professionals, they will not only pay for the service, they will become your greatest marketing tools. It doesn’t even have to be a nationally recognized IT “star,” as long as your target audience recognizes the experience and opinions of your instructor as being authoritative on the subject at hand.
Just in case you are unfamiliar with David, Mark, or Brian: David Cuttler is largely regarded as the architect behind both DEC VMS and Microsoft NT. Mark Minasi is the author of Mastering Windows NT Server and, more recently, Mastering Windows 2000 Server. Click here to read TechRepublic’s interview with Minasi. Brian Moran is an author, speaker, and trainer. Each is considered an expert in his field.
Aim higher
So why hasn’t the training community caught on to this? Why do they continue to advertise their course offerings without the first mention of who will be teaching it? The answer, I believe, is simple: They are picking the low-hanging fruit. There are hundreds of thousands of people trying to get into the IT field. Every one of them wants the core training, and they are perfectly willing to accept anyone who has passed a MCP exam as being authoritative on the subject matter. With a kind smile and a little patience, such a trainer can easily endear themselves to the average MCSE candidate.

Experienced students expect more
Put that same instructor in a classroom of experienced administrators who are trying to learn Windows 2000 and he or she will immediately lose the interest of the students. Not because the instructor hasn’t learned the material and not because he or she lacks the presentation skills, but because the students don’t view the instructor as authoritative. They don’t believe that the instructor knows any more about the subject matter than what is in the student manual. To quote a student, “I can read the manual faster and cheaper than having somebody read it to me.”

Market demand dictates the type and quality of training being offered. So isn’t it logical to expect that as the industry changes and matures, the training needs associated with the industry also need to grow?

The high-end market is growing
The current offerings are tailored to the incredible demand for a fundamental understanding of technology. The winds are shifting, and the 800,000 plus MCPs who now hold this fundamental knowledge are starting to discover that they need additional training.

Is your training center prepared to meet the demands of these seasoned professionals? Where will your client base come from when the unemployment rate starts to head in the other direction? The training companies who adapt to these changes early will be poised to lead the next wave of IT training. Those who do not will either follow the leaders or cease to exist.

By concentrating on training the entry-level masses, we as an industry have forgotten that there are other markets out there, which have yet to be tapped. We have largely ignored the technical leaders and decision-makers as potential clients for more advanced training. But these markets are more difficult to penetrate. These clients will not be easily duped by training center advertisements promising $70,000 a year after just two weeks of training. If you want to open up these markets, you have to put something more substantial on the table than the technical equivalent of a television anchor. You have to prove to your potential clients that the instructor is capable of teaching the material, not just presenting it.

Where to find knowledgeable trainers and students
You won’t find the trainers to teach these classes by calling your favorite instructor broker. They are not full-time trainers, and they don’t need a broker to market them. You won’t find these students by sending out your standard brochures; they have already “tuned out” your training offers. But you can easily find both the trainers and potential students at user group meetings, industry association meetings, and technical conferences. They are there because those events are as close as they can get to the type of training they are looking for.
Who is your dream instructor? What kind of high-end training classes would you like to see, on any topic? Send Mike an e-mail and share your ideas.

Mike Sullivan is a senior systems engineer with Merge Computer Group, Inc., a Richmond, VA, consulting firm. His credentials include MCSE+I, MCDBA, MCT, and 19 years of IT experience. He is a full-time consultant who occasionally takes time off from his clients to teach.