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Colin Steed – new Chief Executive of the Institute of IT Training – in an exclusive interview

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Colin Steed, recently appointed Chief Executive for the Institute of IT Training, spared some time to provide TrainingZONE with an interview to tell us a bit about himself and future aims he has for this institute.

TrainingZONE: How did your career with IT Training start?
Colin: I have been associated with IT Training since 1975, although my career originally started by working within a computing environment back in 1968. My training career commenced at British Airways, Heathrow, where I helped set up a training department. I left British Airways and joined Infotech to run their courses and conferences. In 1982 I made the move to start up my own company, Training & Information Network with two other colleagues where we published a Directory of training courses and companies and also launched the IT Training Magazine around 1984-85. In 1995 Nick Mitchell bought the company and together we set up Institute of IT Training. I remained with this company until around 1998 and then IT Training was sold to Haymarket. Following a six-month break, I joined Hemming Group and helped to launch IT Skills magazine. In 1999, Haymarket also purchased this magazine and I merged the two magazines to form the current IT Training. I joined with the Institute of IT Training at the beginning of October 2000 as Chief Executive.

TrainingZONE: What instigated you to start the Institute of IT Training?
Colin: Whilst working on the magazine, I had contact with many readers and the feelings and thoughts I picked up from them was as a group of people they were not recognised as professionals in their own right within industry. IT Trainers were also considered as a somewhat lowly position. I thought this needed changing. The role needs to become as recognised as a professional, exactly like that of an Accountant, Doctor or Teacher, for example. If Teachers are accorded professional status, why should not IT Trainers, who are professionals in their own right, they are teachers within industry. What was needed was a professional body which could raise the profile and standards of the IT training profession. And in just five years since its inception, the Institute has standards that are recognised and are being adopted by the UK’s leading organisations as the way to develop and retain skilled, motivated and professional staff. So far this year, the Institute has awarded accreditation to over 100 different training organisations and internal training departments. Additionally, some 2000 trainers have achieved certification through the Institute’s TAP programme. I know some organisations who have stated that once they have received this award from the IITT that their senior management have developed a far better opinion of them and commented that they did not appreciate how professional a training department they had within their establishment until they had achieved IITT accreditation. It has really raised their profile within the organisation. Many IT Trainers, through belonging to a professional body for IT Trainers, also felt that they were represented as a group and had a real focus for their profession.

TrainingZONE: What future do you envisage for the IT Trainer?
Colin: Everyone is talking about e-learning, but I believe e-learning will work best when it is blended into the classroom as part of the curriculum. This provision is best used when implemented to provide additional background information or if the trainer wanted to test entry levels of their course attendees. E-learning could also be used in the context of completing project work once they have completed a classroom session and this could then be complemented by follow-up workshop sessions and online assessments. It has to be a mixture of both e-learning and classroom-based training; I am not convinced that e-learning on its own, will be a successful method of training delivery, unless it has an online tutor. Existing classroom-based IT Trainers should consider broadening their skills in online tutoring, which requires a completely different set of skills. I think trainers of tomorrow will all need a variety of training, tutoring and consultancy skills. And the Institute will be there ready to guide and help them prepare for the future.

TrainingZONE: How can IT Trainers enhance their profile, both on an individual basis and for the organisation they work for?
Colin: I feel this is a two-phase approach. Firstly, the trainer must to get qualified, just like an accountant, doctor or teacher does. This is the way that they will achieve status, so that people will listen to them, and respect them. Now, this does not have to be just through the IITT, it can be any ‘train-the-trainer’ course, but I do honestly believe that the IITT offers the best route through its TAP programme. Secondly, get the training department within the trainer’s organisation to achieve Institute accreditation; let their companies see how important and professional they are, whether it’s a one-person department or a 10, 20 or 100 member team. Too many IT training personnel and departments are not good at blowing their own trumpets, they need to heighten their own profile, by publishing internal newsletters, or hold open days to tell other people within their company what it is they are doing. Interest people, encourage people to come to them, and talk to them.

TrainingZONE: What qualities do you think you will bring to the IITT?
Colin: Well I’m quite ancient in IT training terms! I have been in a training environment for 25+ years but I do know IT training very well. Because of my involvement with the magazine, I have got to know many trainers, training users and training companies. I have a good understanding as to their needs and wants. I think that people find it easy to talk to me so they are not afraid of telling me what they want. I also actually go out and talk to training departments; and so I have got to know many people on a personal basis. I feel I can help people get what they want. I’d like to see the Institute being;

‘The place to go for anything to do with training for any sort of training advice’.

To become Chief Executive of the IITT now, felt the right time for me, I could not have wished for a better job and am really pleased to be at the helm. So far I am astounded by the quality of the people that I work with at the Institute, they are extremely professional, enthusiastic and motivated and that makes working at Institute House a real joy. Having been here for just a short time I am struck by just what has been achieved by Nick Mitchell in such a short space of time. It’s been an incredible achievement. But, of course, a new face brings in new ideas and perhaps a fresh way of looking at things. So my message to members and prospective members is that much of the work in establishing standards, accreditation and certification programmes will continue and grow. But I do have some exciting plans and strategies which are all focused on bringing benefits both to members and the IT training industry itself. My major thrust in the first six months will be to improve communication between the Institute and its members. This will include a regular members’ magazine concentrating on news, hints and tips, articles and other information, as well as regular email communication and a huge new package of membership benefits. Additionally, we shall completely redevelop the IITT’s website. I aim to make the Institute much more web-driven, providing members with articles, research, reports, best practice advice, online collaboration, the ability to update their CPD records online, and so on. There’s much to do but we’re ready to take the Institute and its members to new heights in its next stage of development.

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