The future of the IT training market looks bleak following the announcement that key player KnowledgePool has all but abandoned running courses and has become a training consultancy instead.
Chief executive Paul Butler admitted that the move had been forced on the company because the IT training market had "literally collapsed" in the summer.
"Five to six years ago 80 per cent of our revenue was driven out of our classrooms. This year I'd be surprised if that figure is more than 10 per cent," he said.
But while the economic climate had forced many companies to pull new systems implementations, retaining staff with scarce skills was still a big issue. "When things get tough you need to identify those people you need to retrain or get rid of," explained Butler.
He said that the training arm of parent company ICL will now focus on its outsourced service to help corporate customers develop employees' skills to reflect changing business requirements.
The foundation of the service is the Talent Solutions web-based competency tracking system which allows companies to identify their existing skills base, compare it with the skills needed in the future and identify the best training strategy to bridge that gap.
"We will develop and deliver the most appropriate method of training. It doesn't necessarily have to be classroom-based training, e-learning or mentoring. It's likely to be a mix - whatever is most appropriate to them," said Butler.
KnowledgePool has already laid off about 15 per cent of its workforce as part of the restructure to focus on the new outsourced offering. "Companies will outsource because it is a nightmare managing people development," he explained.
But companies that used the outsourced offering purely to cut costs had missed the point, Butler said. "We wouldn't take on a client whose decision criteria was pure cost saving. Outsourcing training is about finding the most appropriate way of developing your most valuable asset," he maintained.
KnowledgePool already provides the service to ICL and to the training needs analysis unit at Lloyd's TSB.
Meanwhile, Butler said that an initial public offer and spin off from ICL was still a possibility, despite putting the plans on hold last summer because of difficulties in the market.
"ICL is currently going through a rebranding process and it's not strong enough to get any value from spinning off KnowledgePool," he said. "They wouldn't get enough for us. But as things pick up, it's on the cards."
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