Kotlinski and others say they're also seeing new trends in how and where IT workers seek training. Although many corporate development budgets remain tight, companies still pay for some training. They might not be sending large numbers of staffers to big conferences and seminars, Kotlinski says, but they continue to contract with vendors for on-the-job training or encourage mentoring and other work-based learning.
IT workers may not see all of those learning opportunities as training. And they might not realize that their companies are still willing to pay for training. IT leaders say many employers cover training costs, even for courses picked by individual workers, as long as a worker can show how the training benefits the company. Still, they acknowledge, training dollars aren't flowing as freely as they once were, and that leaves plenty of costs to individual employees.
And that scenario has serious drawbacks, says Joseph Young, IT director at OK International, a Garden Grove, Calif.-based manufacturer of bench tools, equipment and related products.
Young says he pays for the training he thinks his six-member IT team needs so that he -- and therefore his organization -- can stay current. "I just make sure they can quantify how their training will help the company reach strategic goals," he says, noting that he supports a variety of training opportunities, from conferences to mentoring.
He says IT organizations that don't pay for training lose their competitive edge. "There's a common denominator I find with underperforming IT organizations: They don't have the investment in training," he says.
As a result, many techies must find ways to keep costs in check as they pay for more and more of their ongoing education. They seek out webinars and low-cost or free online learning opportunities, including massive open online courses, or MOOCs.
Ali O. Sabbah is a case in point. He's a senior desktop analyst at a California law firm. He's studying for a bachelor's degree in business law and finance at California State University, and he takes courses in networking, Cisco certification and emerging technologies. He signs up for vendor-led training at his company, classes at an area community college and tutorials online.
He acknowledges that it's an eclectic mix, but he says it's delivering the knowledge he needs to earn his degree and the certifications he believes he'll need to eventually launch his own IT services firm. "There's enough out there," he says, "that I can get what I need to get ahead."
Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.