Saskatchewan puts brakes on training drain with online effort

Concerned by the number of Saskatchewan workers receiving their IT training in other provinces, the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) recently launched a new Web site to help make education available closer to home.

The Saskatchewan Education Exchange (SEE) not only ensures employers and students stay in the loop of available training sessions available in the province, but also serves as a way to keep the lines of communication open within the Saskatchewan IT sector, said Donna Lindskog, CIPS Saskatchewan director.

“IT is an industry where you really have to stay current all the time. There is always more training needed for existing employees,” Lindskog said. “We’re hoping [the Web site] will make it easier to stay current in Saskatchewan. By having the training available throughout the province, more people would get that training and Saskatchewan, as a whole, will thrive better that way.”

The SEE Web site ( was developed in partnership with industry, government and training providers. Visitors to the site can post classes that are being offered in locations across the province, or what training they or their staff require.

“Hopefully others would see that and say, ‘I have that need too,'” Lindskog said. “And education is more readily available in our own backyard with the Web site.”

The plan is to help Saskatchewan companies save money on out-of-province training expenses, reduce staff travelling time, and get the province’s IT sector working together, she added.

The Web site model might even take flight in other parts of the country if it turns out to help Saskatchewan IT employees, Lindskog said.

CIPS and the Information Technology Sector Partnership (ITSP), a committee of sector representatives, created SEE as a result of an IT sector survey conducted last year. The survey found that 37 per cent of Saskatchewan’s estimated 247 IT companies (which employ more than 10,000 people), were finding it difficult to get training for their staff.

The difficulties associated with training in the province, especially specialized technical training, are threefold. First, training co-ordinators find it difficult to attract providers to the area. Second, there isn’t a way to find out what type of training employees across the province need, and lastly, employers face spending a small fortune to train workers outside of Saskatchewan.

As the co-ordinator of a computer training facility with Saskatchewan Health, the provincial government’s health department, Tina Neudorf has seen first hand how frustrating the training process can be in the province. Part of her job is to co-ordinate technical training for 50 to 60 specialized IT professionals within her company. She said trying to locate training providers, or even trying to fill empty spaces in some of her classes, can be extremely time-consuming.

“I’d have one or two people that needed a specialized course,” Neudorf said. “Training providers are not going to fly in someone from Toronto, Winnipeg or wherever for two people in Regina. So what happened is usually my people didn’t get training at all.”

She was also limited because of budget constraints. If Neudorf had to send a person out of province for training, she could only send one person. However, if the training could happen in her backyard, she could send two people, and have a back-up person, therefore bringing training to more employees.

Neudorf’s own facility can accommodate eight spots. In this particular example she needed to fill six more seats in order to justify flying in a provider from outside the province, she said. In the end, it took Neudorf one week to call all her contacts and put the course together. She was successful, but it took up a lot of her time.

“We are not a Toronto, where there are multi-training providers located in large sectors across the city,” Neudorf said.

Before SEE was established, Neudorf was part of a committee called Regina Information Technology Educators (RITE), which initially formed as a special interest group of CIPS Saskatchewan. The group exchanged information with other IT sector professionals and vendors about training requirements. The SEE Web site is an expanded version of RITE.

There is no fee to use the site. Saskatchewan Learning through the JobStart/Future Skills Sector Partnerships Program made funding for the site available and the Saskatchewan Advanced Technology Association (SATA) developed the Web site and will maintain it for the first six months.

The idea is to have corporations help sponsor the Web site, once word of it gets around, Lindskog said.

Neudorf says SEE is a win-win situation for both training providers and the people who are looking for training, adding that in many cases training providers end up cancelling classes because of lack of interest.

“I’ve heard of people going down to the U.S. and we could’ve held the same course here in Saskatchewan if we had just got together,” she said.