GOVERNMENT AS TRAINING BROKER
When the number of PCs in government began to boom during the late 1980s, MIS training departments discovered they couldn't keep up with all the software programs workers were loading on their desktop computers. Rather than try and become experts in everything - an impossible task - MIS set up programs that matched training needs with available services.
The idea was to act as a broker between government agencies in need of training, and private training centers and vendors. This approach quickly proved beneficial for individual agencies. MIS not only handled all the logistics of finding and contracting qualified trainers, they pooled the training needs of the entire government and leveraged sizeable discounts on a wide range of classes.
The Texas Department of Information Resources became a training broker when the state Legislature passed the Information Resources Management Act, charging DIR with providing and coordinating all technology training programs for the entire state government. Since 1991, DIR has provided a full schedule of PC classes conducted by third-party trainers using DIR's facilities. The classes are open to federal, state, city, county, school district and law enforcement personnel.
In 1994, more than 6,600 individuals received training through DIR. According to Joann Washington, DIR's manager of training and education, the department charges a nominal administration fee for each of the classes brokered. Some of the benefits of DIR's training program include onsite training - which reduces travel costs - and coordination of resources, which ensures that agencies don't run duplicative training programs. DIR said its classes generally cost 30 to 60 percent less than comparable training in the private sector. Last year, DIR saved public sector organizations more than $736,000 in training costs through its brokering program.
California's SEEP is another large computer education program, offering over 100 courses in technology training. Each year, more than 5,000 federal, state and local employees take computer classes that have been arranged by SEEP. In addition to helping government agencies by leveraging course discounts, SEEP also reduces course paperwork for registration and billing with an electronic funds transfer system.
Because it's not mandatory that public sector employees use SEEP for training, the Department of General Services must recruit agencies to use its services. "We're in competition with the private vendors," remarked Valerie Bothun, an administrative assistant, "because employees don't have to use us." One way SEEP competes is by putting a lot of effort into ensuring the quality of the courses it offers. It also works at marketing the courses to employees.
In addition to the wide variety of PC courses, SEEP has introduced several management level programs in recent years. Government managers can attend the year-long Data Processing Managers Training Academy, the Management Development Program - which is a three-month program - or the annual Executive Institute.
This September, SEEP is embarking on an entirely new project - a live satellite broadcast training program for government managers and team leaders. The program will link regional sites around the state so that managers and executives can "attend" live sessions that will explore the issue of change in management processes. To make the sessions truly interactive, they will employ broadcast techniques including talk show format, debate, reenactments, three-dimensional computer animation, case studies and role playing.
For government entities that have neither access nor funds for the stylish and substantive course programs offered in some states, PC training is a more down-to-earth affair. Yet even moderate-sized governments can apply some of the successful techniques used by larger governments. In Monroe County, N.Y., the Department of Information Services has