To Train or Not to Train?

Companies in the Middle East have to weigh up the benefits of training their staff to the highest levels in a market lacking skilled professionals, against the costs of having those staff leave for greener pastures writes Piers Forde.

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To Train or Not to Train? Raymond Chabab from Huawei Enterprise says that organisations are missing out on the possibilities of deploying new technology because their IT staff are focused on day-to-day network maintenance.
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By  Piers Ford Published  July 22, 2012

Companies in the Middle East have to weigh up the benefits of training their staff to the highest levels in a market lacking skilled professionals, against the costs of having those staff leave for greener pastures writes Piers Forde.

Networking professionals wear their qualifications with pride, while keeping an eye on what industry-standard training could add to their value - in what remains, despite the raft of IT training certificates available, a seller’s market.

The perception that some IT certifications all but guarantee a six-figure salary might be a little wide of the mark but there is ample evidence that the leading networking qualifications, vendor-neutral and specific, continue to command some of the most substantial remuneration in the industry.

Training specialist Global Knowledge, for example, lists several Cisco certifications among the top 15 in its annual IT Skills and Salary report, worth between almost $75,000 and more than $101,000 a year, and holding their own amidst a host of Microsoft and vendor-neutral security qualifications.

In the Middle East, where there is a history of fluid movement among highly-skilled networking professionals, this presents organisations with a constant dilemma: to train, or not to train, employees who might be tempted to head for more lucrative markets once they are armed with their new network certifications.

“We find that qualified networking professionals are always in demand” says Sukhbir Jasuja, CEO of ITpreneurs, which delivers a comprehensive range of vendor-neutral training programmes in the region.

“Globally, there are not enough qualified professionals to meet demand and this also applies to the Middle East. Emerging technologies including cloud computing and virtualisation require demonstrable competency in a new set of skills, and in order for these professionals to stay current and move to the next level of their career, there is a need to advance their individual skills through training and certification.”

Jasuja says that CTOs and CEOs should be much more concerned about the negative impact of not having an adequately trained IT team than about the risk of a newly-qualified employee leaving the company. He said the notion of a brain drain of certified IT professionals from the region has become outdated.

“In fact, we see evidence of a ‘reverse brain drain’, if you will – technology professionals relocating from other markets to the Middle East as it becomes an increasingly important professional market for the rest of the world,” states Jasuja.

Reversing Brain Drain

Raymond Chabab, head of business development, Middle East, at ICT vendor Huawei Enterprise explains that organisations are missing out on the innovative possibilities of deploying new technology because too often their IT staff are focused on day-to-day network maintenance rather than getting skilled up in next-generation networks and applications, and contributing to a more dynamic IT strategy.

“If staff have many opportunities to take part in training and enhance their abilities continuously, and the company can also provide a clear career development path for the staff, trained staff will be more willing to stay,” he says.

He adds that the UAE is leading the way in reversing the brain drain, and is attracting skilled networking professionals from other Gulf and Middle Eastern countries, as well as from Asia and Europe.

“Ultimately, the UAE is an example of a Middle East market that offers fantastic employment opportunities to IT professionals,” states Chabab. “Competitive salaries, continuous training opportunities and a supportive business culture within the IT department and the wider organisation are essential to preventing high staff turnover and the most skilled network professionals jumping from one job to the next.”

Even if the brain drain is in reverse however, there is a considerable shortage of mid-level and advanced networking skills in the region. Josef Miskulnig, chief executive officer and president of training provider Fast Lane expects the need for skilled networking professionals in the Middle East and Africa to grow by around 250,000, with the greatest gaps arising in network-associated areas such as video, unified communications, borderless networks and data centre management.

“Economies in this area of the world are gaining in importance and will encourage talent to stay in the region,” he explains. “We also see a strong trend in training and developing local workforces, which are not as vulnerable to migration as the expat community.”

Home Grown Talent

For some industry watchers, the equation between training investment and the best use of new technology is simple.

“A well trained professional means better configured network equipment,” says Sanjeev Singh, managing director at Spectrum Training, which delivers vendor-specific and vendor-neutral training across the region. “There would be no point in investing a huge amount of money in buying expensive hardware if the technical person is not skilled to configure the device in the right way. In order to get optimum use, enhanced productivity and return on investment, businesses should not shy away from training.

“Companies in the region need to be more proactive to constantly upgrade the skillsets of their networking and IT managers and staff in order to drive the maximum use of their IT investments,” he adds.

ITpreneurs’ Sukhbir Jasuja states that peripheral skills, including project management, service management and security training are lacking among network professionals.

“Data security is especially important, as networking can be a potentially weak link in the security chain,” explains Jasuja. “Based on the existing environment, networking professionals have an opportunity to grow in service management [which is broad] and project management, but indeed, emerging technologies like cloud computing are becoming more and more relevant with data and applications quickly moving to the cloud.”

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