Trimming the retraining tuition bill

in a tight labor market, companies have to train people, to maximize their resources

Why would a corporation spend time building training programs, when it could just hire skills? The reason is that IT pros nowadays are so precious. And you can't make money on the Web unless you have the people with the technical skills to pull it off. The best way to get those skills, said Cushing Anderson of International Data Corp., is to retrain the people you have.

"People are finally beginning to realize that in a tight labor market, they have to train people, to maximize their resources," said Anderson, an analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Mass.

But how do you put together retraining programs in the most resource-effective way? One way, experts say, is by turning to online training exchanges. Not only do they function as a single source of training products and services, they bring costs down, particularly for smaller enterprises.

Mark Tobias, for one, is a believer in online training exchanges. The purchasing manager for IT at the Wisconsin Bureau of Procurement's Administration Department, in Madison, in fact, has over the past year been compiling his own simple exchange, based on a spreadsheet and 300 vendors' e-mail addresses. But while Tobias' home-grown exchange is a good way to reach local training vendors, he was pleased recently to stumble across a global exchange, RFP Exchange from Thinq Learning Solutions Inc., in Billerica, Mass.

"It's the best of both worlds now," Tobias said. "We have local vendors, plus, for larger projects that local vendors can't do, we have vendors in the Thinq exchange, so we can cover any and all IT training."

Such exchanges bring lots of vendors together to bid on training RFPs. That results in competition, and that drives down the cost, Tobias said. RFP Exchange, at www.thinq.com, for example, lists training products and services from 3,000-plus vendors. In addition, the site lists instructor qualifications and customer recommendations. Exchanges also open up the possibility of discounts for smaller companies that never before could get the cushy deals doled out to the big boys. "Traditionally, [the big companies] could get 20 percent discounts, on average, by picking up the phone and saying they're a Genzyme or whatever," said Brett Bingham, manager of RFP Exchange. "Now any company can get 20 percent or up to, in some cases, 50 percent for certified training [discounts]."