Vanishing act

Enterprises are finding that more and more skilled IT employees are disappearing from the market.

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By  Brid-Aine Conway Published  April 25, 2008

"My guys are always knocking on the door, saying I want to go on this or that training course. It's not for their own aggrandisement, it's basically that they want to learn and I think companies should approach their overall benefits and working environment on the basis that if you come here we will train you, we will look after you and we'll try to make the other benefits," says David Allinson, general manager of Opennet which runs RedHat certification training.

"But there's a fear, whether real or unfounded that 'I'll train these guys and then they'll go and leave'. Now, they may leave for more money, that's always going to be a risk, but it's actually a bit of a cop-out by the employer to say I won't train them because if I train them they'll leave, because at the end of the day if you train them and the work environment is good, why would they really want to move away from it?" he asks.

I've seen companies make people sign contracts that say if I leave within a year or two of doing this course, I'll pay the company back.

OTE's Somani agrees: "Irrespective of whether you train them or not, the attrition rate which is there in the industry can't be stopped, that's there in general. In fact, I feel the reverse way, if you train them and if you keep them busy always with test tools and technologies and so on, you can reduce the attrition. If you don't train them and they are becoming stagnated, they feel there are no challenges, no opportunities in the organisation, then the probability of them leaving is much higher. I strongly believe training helps to retain staff."

Louis Helmbold, senior technical consultant for HP ProCurve Networking also feels that training can be a way to keep existing staff happy: "Developing people can almost be like a golden handcuff for staff - as an enterprise develops employees, obviously the employee also has more loyalty towards the enterprise."

However, there are still issues that are holding enterprises back from large investments in staff training. Opennet's Allinson thinks that if the training is non-essential, enterprises still sometimes tend not to do it: "Too many people see training as a cost to the organisation so if you want to save costs, don't train your staff."

UDC's Rao says: "Convincing the management in this part of the world is very difficult; they should realise how important training is for the staff to cope with technology, because technology changes so fast these days. And unless you gear up to that particular knowledge, you will not be able to survive in the market or fulfil the needs of your customers. There is a gap between the IT and the management, but I think that is getting slowly bridged."

Another of the pressures on IT managers is managing the daily time of their employees - in some cases; they simply can't spare the staff.

"I think the demands we place on employees here in the Middle East is often greater than in other areas. And balancing the need to do your day-to-day operations and then also engage in ongoing training is one of the definite challenges CIOs have," says Jumeirah Group's Bangert.

Despite these obstacles, many see training as the only way to tackle the regional lack of IT skills, to provide an incentive for staff to stay, and to solve the shortage in the long term.

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