Partnership helps arm IT contractors with up-to-date, relevant skills

A corporate technology training centre and an IT staffing firm are partnering to help Canadian contractors maintain a competitive edge in the industry.

IMI Ward Associates is offering training programs, at a discount, to its IT clients and candidates they work with, through a joint agreement with CDI Corporate Education Services (CES).

Jim Pearse, managing director of IMI Ward Associates, said because IT is so specialized, contractors have to be very careful about developing their skill-set in a specific area. What types of contracts they take and the amount of current training they have both play crucial roles in this.

“And if they are going to select a particular agency to work with, and that agency can help them get access to the training they are going to need, then that’s good for the agency and it’s good for the contractor,” he said.

According to Pearse, the bulk of IMI Ward’s clients don’t enjoy any “benefits of bigness” because most are independent contractors.

“It’s not as easy for them, as it is for big companies, to have access to these kinds of (training) services at a reasonable price.”

CDI offers many IT courses including project management, webmastering and database administration, as well as a host of software programming courses such as Java, C++ and Visual Basic. Students can either go through the CES programs offered through schools such as the University of Waterloo and the University of Ottawa or can have special training sessions set up on the client site, said Zakir Hussain, program and marketing manager of CDI CES.

“Technology changes really fast and people need to constantly upgrade. And we know from Ward, which deals with IT staffing needs everyday, that all their employees and contractors want training. And they don’t just want computer-based training, they want an instructor [to teach them],” he said.

According to Hussain, CDI will offer the IMI Ward clients customized courses based on the needs voiced by contractors. The two companies are working closely to document required skill-sets for various jobs. He said, together, they will be able to offer a more complete solution because they will address staffing and training needs at the same time.

“People that come out of school at the entry level don’t have the experience and knowledge. But here (with this program), we are talking about a base of people who have a lot of experience, but don’t have the latest technologies or fundamentals and the latest languages,” he said. “CDI will help upgrade all those people.”

Andy Potter, a Toronto-based independent systems analyst contractor and IMI Ward client, said he needs to keep current on PowerBuilder, Visual Basic, Visual C++ and Oracle databases. He is looking for a middle-of-the-road type of instruction, finding that many courses are either too long or not advanced enough for his needs.

“Because there are so many ways to ingest this information, if [IMI Ward] is doing something that particularly caters to what I need, then I’d be interested,” he said.

Toronto-based network engineer contractor, Alex Gurevich, another IMI Ward client , said finding the time to research and attend courses is often difficult. He said the company’s training service would be particularly useful if the staffing firm were to list jobs and skills needed for that job ahead of time, then offer courses relevant to those jobs.

“The people the agency is going to be placing already have the skill-set necessary (for the jobs), or at least four out of five items. The fifth item is usually the clincher,” he said.

“So rather than placing somebody who has four out of the five (skills needed) and having that person learn the fifth one on the job, have that person sent on a course prior to the project’s beginning — then he or she is going in with five out of five.”