By Matthew Southwell
The UAE’s IT training and education sector is growing rapidly as both government bodies and private companies attempt to bring their staff up to speed with current technology trends.
|~||~||~|The UAE’s IT training and education sector is growing rapidly as both government bodies and private companies attempt to bring their staff up to speed with current technology trends and build workforces capable of functioning in the knowledge economy. Furthermore, there is growth at both the high end and basic levels, as some organisations embrace bleeding edge technologies within their IT departments and others encourage IT savviness among even the most computer illiterate of staff.“IT training and education is one of the key growth areas in the UAE and we are seeing a lot of basic training for government departments,” says Torben Pedersen, senior analyst at IDC Middle East & North Africa. “At the same time, big organisations are realising that as they become more dependent on IT in their infrastructures they need to have experts that can handle the mission critical parts,” he continues.Evidence from numerous local training houses supports IDC’s belief that the local training market is on the up. For instance, Josef Miskulnig, managing director of Fast Lane Middle East & Europe, reports that although political unrest earlier in the year slowed adoption slightly, the number of people signing up for IT classes is definitely increasing. “Earlier in the year we experienced a drop in the number of registrations… Nevertheless, we have experienced signs of a return to normality with a rise in registrations over the last three months,” he says.However, while the future looks good for local training houses, there is a potential fly in the ointment. This stems from the increasing number of e-learning courses vendors are offering both partners and end users. Oracle, for example, has been able to reduce the price of its new midmarket app by removing the classroom element, while Microsoft is also training users online. “Although we don’t really offer e-learning here in the Middle East, we do have online learning. This means we have content on line that partners can learn and then evaluate themselves,” says Mohamad Jarrar, regional partner development manager for Microsoft Middle East.“There are several factors for doing this. One is that it is available 24x7, which means our partners can access it whenever they want. Another is that because our partners are not just Microsoft partners they have to do other training as well, which makes it hard for them to commit time to classroom training. Also, accessing online learning means lower costs for them and for us,” he explains.By moving their partner training online, vendors are obviously removing a source of revenue from local training houses. As such, local operators are already tracking developments closely. “We are observing the situation,” confirms Miskulnig.However, neither the vendors nor the training companies believe that direct vendor education will see an end to the rapid expansion of learning centres. Jarrar, for instance, says putting training companies out of business is not on the Redmond giant’s agenda. “We may offer limited specific content free of charge, but we don’t want to compete with our technical education partners,” he confirms.Additionally, many training houses argue that e-learning and online content is only part of the story and that users still like classroom interaction. “People still prefer to sit in a classroom and learn,” confirms Rajender Bali, chief operating officer (COO) of Executrain Middle East.However, Gene Longobardi, senior vice president of global franchise operations at New Horizons, warns that the happy coexistence of vendors and training partners cannot be taken for granted. He says learning centres have to continue to develop their solutions and add the value that vendors are unable to deliver.“[Training companies] need to be able to provide the right solutions, figure out what companies really need... and then provide the training… because [direct vendor training] will hurt some of the training channel that isn’t strong enough or doesn’t have a broad enough product offering,” Longobardi explains. ||**||