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Partners in Training

IBM taps five worldwide partners to deliver client training



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Many companies are finding it challenging to hire highly skilled employees who can leverage today’s powerful technology to solve real business problems. According to the 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report, only one in 10 organizations has all of the skills it needs to be successful, while a 2013 survey from IBM Smarter Workforce indicates best-performing organizations drive 68 percent more training to their teams than the worst-performing organizations. Fostering and identifying critical skills is rapidly becoming one of the most important issues facing organizations. Respondents to a recent IBM C-suite survey placed people skills in the top four external factors they are most concerned about in the next three to five years.

To help its clients and business partners generate the skills needed to maximize and accelerate their return on technology investments, IBM recently announced significant changes to its training ecosystem.

IBM traditionally provided its education offerings within its Lab Services units in the Software and Systems and Technology groups. However, in July 2013, IBM rolled out a new education and training model for its customers. Several factors influenced that decision. IBM wanted to:

  • Foster growth in technology skills in the market for the broader IBM portfolio
  • Enhance training availability at a local level
  • Add more innovation in the delivery and flexibility of learning styles

This move allows customers to choose training courses that better suit their business needs in their local marketplaces.

IBM set out to find a group of partners that could provide essential training for IBM products and solutions as part of its Global Skills Initiative (GSI), allowing all IBM business partners to apply to the program as long as they met the demanding criteria that demonstrated the partner’s ability to deliver high-quality training in every country where IBM operates.

Bob McDonald, IBM vice president and executive sponsor of GSI, says the applicants had to demonstrate competency and quality in the education realm of its existing education business model, along with an awareness of—and capabilities for—delivering both classroom-style education, and digitally delivered courses and innovation (and flexibility) in blending learning styles to customers’ needs.

The Global Training Providers (GTPs) had to have a global presence, and the ability to attract and retain instructors worldwide. IBM chose five partners to participate in the GSI program: Arrow, Avnet, Global Knowledge, Ingram Micro and LearnQuest. These GTPs have impressive track records as business leaders and innovators due to a demonstration of their extensive training network for IBM customers and business partners.

All Education is Local

In 2011, Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president and group executive for Software and Systems, announced a global plan to grow technical skills in the marketplace. As he visited with clients around the globe, Mills heard the same story—they wanted to work with local partners because these partners better understood the specific market requirements and needs.

By leveraging the business partners along with the education business partners, IBM could triple the number of skills in the marketplace by 2015. As you would expect, IBM is still heavily invested in its training ecosystem. The company provides high-quality content from all brands to the GTPs, and the training providers build an ecosystem of instructors and other partners who can access the training materials.

The partners are encouraged to take the IBM content and adjust it to meet market requirements in crafting their own educational offerings and derivative work courses. “These work courses will meet a niche requirement or allow the instructors to expand the skills in the marketplace,” McDonald explains.

Courses can be classroom-style and instructor-led, or they may be offered as online courses with one instructor and many students in virtual classrooms. A self-pace option allows clients to access training courses on their own schedules. The GTPs can customize education to help an organization meet its training goals and objectives. The GTPs can also blend the learning experience with mixed delivery styles and augment with coaching.

Caroline Vitse is a freelance writer based in Rochester, Minnesota.

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