IT trainers clash over Microsoft agreement

A clash of UK and US standards for IT training specialists is brewing following an agreement between Microsoft and the UK's IT...

A clash of UK and US standards for IT training specialists is brewing following an agreement between Microsoft and the UK's IT National Training Organisation (ITNTO) over an assessment service based on a US scheme, writes John Kavanagh.

This has come as the UK Institute of IT Training is establishing its own standards in this country and abroad.

The ITNTO, set up under the last Government as one of a series of training schemes for different sectors, is initially acting as an assessor of people who want the Microsoft Certified Trainer qualification.

Microsoft's scheme, like those of other suppliers, is based on the standards of the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction, formed in the US in 1984.

The ITNTO will extend its scheme to specialists in other IT fields, and also bring in training standards drawn up by the Employment NTO. It will later set up a register of accredited IT trainers.

But the Institute of IT Training has developed its own standards, which have been adopted by 70 training firms - representing 75% of the UK market - in the first two years. More than 1,100 people have achieved its standard in the UK.

The institute's standards for technology-based training have won commitment from the Government's emerging University for Industry training initiative, qualifications body Edexcel, which incorporates BTEC and the London Examinations Board, and from the Association for Computer-Based Training.

Claire Curtis, Microsoft's skills manager, says the ITNTO scheme gives more choice to people seeking the company's qualification and also draws on the organisation's wider experience in training and standards. For example, the ITNTO oversees the National Vocational Qualifications in IT and chairs other initiatives.

In addition, the ITNTO initiative has been welcomed by the Computing Services and Software Association.

But Henry Stewart, chief executive of training firm Happy Computers, a member of the Institute of IT Training, says he has "no interest in the ITNTO scheme at all".

Stewart explains, "The institute's scheme is excellent and has the potential to transform the training industry, and there is no point in anyone doing anything else.

"The US standards are adequate but the difference between them and the institute's standards is the difference between merely presenting and truly training. It is not possible to get the institute's qualification by following the other scheme."

Nick Mitchell, chief executive of the UK institute, says, "We already have a well established international skills certification programme for IT trainers, and there is a danger of assessment fatigue here."

He adds, "Just this week ICTEC, the leading Microsoft certified training centre, confirmed that it is transferring the training of its own trainers to our model and intends to achieve 100% certification for its 180-plus trainers by the year end."

Anne Russell, ITNTO's chief executive, agrees, "The proliferation of schemes could cause confusion," she says. And she thinks the two schemes could come together in the future.

Mitchell at the institute adds, "Ultimately, we'll see what the market decides."

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