Individuals and smaller companies stand to gain from cheaper access to Microsoft training and certification following the launch last week of a new programme based on partnerships with academic institutions around the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.
The Microsoft IT Academy programme will target universities and colleges of further education (FE) in the UK to give them the tools and support needed to train students in Microsoft technologies.
Academic institutions are being offered a 60 per cent discount on all Microsoft courseware, a support programme including access to web communities and train-the-trainer help. They will also receive subsidised testing down to around £50 for all certification tracks, about half the usual price.
Universities in the UK are expected to incorporate elements of Microsoft training into their courses, but are unlikely to offer Microsoft certification as part of their degree programmes.
However, the move is likely to concern private Microsoft training providers. Already suffering from a downturn in training spend, they are now likely to find themselves going head-to-head with FE colleges for business.
Mark East, senior director for Microsoft's education division across EMEA, told vnunet.com that restrictions on FE colleges would help protect commercial training companies' interests.
"Colleges will tend to offer courses in the evenings. If you work for a small business, you can't afford to take five days out of the office to go on a course. This is another channel to market," East said.
Meanwhile Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centres (Ctecs) would increasingly evolve to offer customised courses to corporate customers. "We will work hard to make sure we don't take business away from them," East said.
He also warned that skills shortages across certain Microsoft skills were hindering technology deployments. "We recognise that there is both a skills shortage and a skills gap and we have some responsibility to address that to make sure that customers have access to people with the right skills to support our products," he said.
"You would say we have a vested interest, but we are also supporting customers who want to get the most out of their IT investments," he added.
But Colin Steed, chief executive of the Institute of IT Training, said "I don't see why Microsoft can't offer these discounts to Ctecs too, especially as everyone is struggling very badly at the moment.
"That would allow training companies to reduce their fees and encourage people to spend more money on training."
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