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TrainingZONE world of exclusives!


Almost exactly a year since it launched at the HRD show last April, World of Training, which operates an online database of training courses, bringing together providers and training buyers, has been bought by trainer and author Nigel Linacre. In an exclusive interview with TrainingZONE, he announces his plans for the company and explains why he's convinced there's a place for World of Training to thrive in the competitive world of online training provision.

When was started up by Anita Monteith, Jim Monteith and Yvonne Hardy, its stated intention was to 'become the UK’s biggest database of courses with a sophisticated search facility'. Last May, it raised £2.5 million in a first round of venture capital funding. Nigel Linacre had been running training courses via his own business for five years and had published several books on business topics when World of Training approached him to do some consultancy work.

When the company's owners decided to sell up, Nigel saw an opportunity: "I felt that World of Training could be a useful business - I always thought the initial idea was good. It's obvious to us that anything that makes buying training easier has a value, and from a training providers point of view, anything that delivers additional orders is likely to be welcome. World of Training has already created a site with thousands of courses and has generated tens of thousands of user sessions." Nigel bought the business at the end of February.

TrainingZONE: Obviously there's more than one business doing this sort of thing - you must think there is enough room in the market for all of them?

Nigel Linacre: Yes, because training providers already look for more than one channel to promote their services. As far as I know, intermediaries don't demand that providers are exclusive to them. From a buying point of view, people will choose the service they find the easiest to use. In terms of the functionality, different people may like different ways of accessing the service. If it turns out that one method is preferred by the majority, one provider will win.

TrainingZONE: How do you intend to develop World of Training?

Nigel Linacre: Firstly, we're developing the ability to get people to use the facilities on- or off-line. Although we believe that online search is what Internet is best at, we're not convinced most purchasers want online booking, online paying or online learning, although some will do. Shifting the business model to include this should generate more orders. We need to have better functionality to make it easier for buyers to get what they want, by being offline as well as online - the term is 'clicks and mortar'. We're aiming to become the leading intermediary in the training market by adding value.

TrainingZONE: What's going to be new for HRD?

Nigel Linacre:We've got a series of packages planned for training providers to work with us. They can either pay to be on the site and get every lead sent direct to them, with no commission, or alternatively they can go the partnership route, where there's commission to pay on every lead, or take the 'brand-less' route, where all leads will come via World of Training. We've been piloting these packages in the last few months.

For buyers, we're also going to be introducing a new service called Training Consultant, which will be available for the first time at the show. The idea behind it is to provide a consultancy service off-line to identify suitable courses and providers for buyers - offering advice, similar to the way Independent Financial Advisers work. Some people will want a recommendation, and we know our providers. It's also a way of getting the market to work closer - choice can be a problem, so by allowing customers to get more detailed information about training providers it should enable the market to grow. We have already piloted this with a handful of training providers - the service will be fully up-and-running in July, but Training Managers who sign up at HRD will be given a discount.

We talked briefly with Nigel about Lguide, who've recently published a comprehensive report evaluating a range of e-learning courses from a number of different providers. Nigel said he thought it would be a challenge to try and codify the information they'll be collecting on courses, given its qualitative nature.

Nigel's general thoughts about the training market were that by helping buyers to become more knowledgeable about the content and quality of training available, the market would become more mature: "It's still very much a cottage industry, which is typical of markets in their early stages. By enabling buyers to buy with confidence, the market will develop, and we're likely to get more larger providers."

His final words: Everybody who's adding value will win.

For more information about World of Training, see the World of Training partner page on TrainingZONE.


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