Training 'gamble' on Linux begins to pay off

One of the UK's IT training firms is seeing increasing demand for Linux courses, but experts say that there's a lot more going on in other parts of the world
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor on

QA Training has said that is starting to see some demand from larger organisations in the nascent market for Linux training services.

QA started doing Linux training courses in June 2004, and has since been busy training large companies. Alina Swietochowska, a principal technologist at QA, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that the decision to start Linux training was initially seen as a risk, as it appeared that Linux was mostly making headway in small companies.

QA is the third most profitable IT training company in the UK, and made £24.6m in 2003, according to a study by IT Skills Research.

"When we put our new portfolio together we were gambling, as growth in the Linux training market is very gentle. I was concerned about providing Linux training as I deal with large organisations, and Linux seemed to be making most headway in small organisations," she said.

Since June its gamble has paid off, the company says, and Swietochowska has been busy running courses for six large companies, including three financial institutions, two public sector organisations and one logistics company.

Swietochowska said there has been no interest in scheduled courses; instead, companies have been interested in on-site events. She said this is because the real market is coming from IT professionals within IT departments.

"HR is not sending people on scheduled courses, but IT managers can see the need and are organising special events," she said.

This lack of interest outside IT is also shown by the job titles of the people that QA has been training: systems administrators, operators and developers, according to Swietochowska. Half of the events that have been run have involved cross-training technical people from the Solaris or Unix operating system to Linux.

QA's customers have little interest in certification, so professional exams are not part of the course, according to Swietochowska. But she said that the content of the courses includes the exam objectives of two of the independent Linux certifications: the CompTIA Linux+ and the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) Level 1 qualification.

Swietochowska does not see large IT training companies as competition, as although the majority offer Linux training, she claims they tend to outsource such training requests to a third party, while QA carries out Linux training in-house. She believes QA's main competition is coming from Linux vendors themselves, such as IBM and Red Hat.

Evan Leibovitch, president of LPI, which offers an independent Linux certification course, said the UK is lagging behind other countries in terms of providing Linux training.

"More than 65,000 people have achieved LPI qualifications since we started at the end of 2002, but most of our success has been in other countries such as the US, Japan, Brazil and Germany."

Last week, at the LinuxWorld Expo in London, LPI announced the launch of its Approved Training Partner programme in the UK. The ITS Group, a provider of training services to the public sector, was made the first partner.

Gillian Brown, an administrator at ITS, said that Linux certification is important for system administrators as senior executives and HR often want to have proof of skills.

"If you say that you have played with Linux for the last 10 years, someone in HR will say, 'prove it'. HR departments and senior IT managers understand what exams mean," said Brown.

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