The worldwide information infrastructure is growing and improving by leaps and bounds, while our ability to support this infrastructure is crumbling around us. That’s because budgets for professional development – training – have been cut to the point where many professionals must learn about technologies on their own, with no corporate support.
In a recent informal poll of the Webtorials community, I asked these network professionals about their attitudes toward professional conferences. Not surprisingly, the two biggest impediments to on-site training were lack of available training and travel budgets.
But I was shocked by some of the responses. For instance, when asked about funding for conferences, only slightly more than half (55 percent) indicated that their companies would pay for the training, 17 percent said the expenses would be shared, and a whopping 28 percent said they would have to pay personally. When asked about taking time for conferences, the results got even worse. Only 57 percent would be attending on company time, 34 percent would have to attend on personal or vacation time and the remaining 9 percent would have to use a combination.
And this problem is widespread. As a part of Webtorials’ partnership with the MPLScon conference, we offered a full conference pass to the two individuals who could convince us that they were most deserving. One winner was in a governmental organization that had been awarded a large capital budget for new equipment, but no training budget. The other was a university faculty member who is working with continuing education students. A truly appalling aspect of this offer was the number of requests we received from companies that should be training their employees, such as major service providers and equipment manufacturers.
Another disturbing factor is that these professionals are the brain trust for the next level of network development. When the Webtorials poll asked about their purchasing authority, more than two-thirds indicated that they had “recommender” authority. Where will we be in three to five years if these key individuals don’t get adequate resources for doing their jobs intelligently?
To a certain extent, training issues can be addressed with on-demand papers and tutorials. But online training is only a part of the picture. I’ll do my part: I’m committed to helping with the on-demand part at Webtorials, and I’ve been crafting agreements with major conferences such as MPLScon and ComNet to help with the live portion. Now I’m asking you, if you have any semblance of budgetary authority, to do yours. Corporations must return training to the corporate IT budgets. And service and equipment providers need to step up the road-show portion of their marketing – concentrating on the smaller metropolitan areas in addition to the “NFL cities.”
Ultimately, real-time experiences – including road shows and conferences – must regain at least a part of their former role in the overall training picture. Otherwise, we’ll have the technology but no one to run the network.