Certifications, and the training that precedes them, may represent a
major investment. It's not possible for some people, however talented,
to shell out thousands of dollars for an MCSE study course (or Cisco,
Java, or whatever technology happens to be in demand). Fortunately,
there are some options. Some forward-thinking corporations are footing
the bill for their employees' training -- and when the day is over,
both employer and employee win. The employee gains new knowledge and
potential for advancement, but the employer gets something out of the
Although the IT job market may be softening somewhat, some fields
remain in high demand. Hiring top-notch network security people, for
example, is still hard. Instead of sending recruiters into the
marketplace -- who frequently come back empty-handed -- the corporation
may opt to train their own security people by offering specialized
training support. This lets the corporation create a security manager
with a very specific set of skills that match exactly the environment
they happen to be running.
Unisys (Blue Bell, Pennsylvania) has one of the best employee training
programs around. If you're one of the 37,000 folks who work there,
you're in luck. If you're not, check with your employer anyway and see
what they have available, you may be surprised. I talked with Steve
Trehern, Vice President of Unisys University, Unisys' internal training
arm, who says that any employee of Unisys, full-time or part-time, has
access to Unisys University.
UU is organized into ten different "schools", which represent the
various critical business functions of Unisys. The program, which is
offered at no cost to employees, includes instruction that leads to
over 100 certifications. Here's how it works: each role within the
company has a profile. An employee can look at that profile, and see
what core courses and specialty programs and certifications are
attached to it. But it doesn't stop there. Suppose you want to cross
over into a different career path -- for example, if you're in
marketing and want to become an engineer. You can look at the engineer
profile and take courses to prepare you for that crossover.
The university offers a combination of in-house programs, e-learning
programs, and classroom programs offered by third-party learning
centers, although it's all organized under the single Unisys University
umbrella. Obviously, they offer this at no small expense to the
corporation, but from their end, they're getting a great deal too.
Since all the courses are organized around Unisys' core functions, they
are able to mold their internal staff to suit their own needs.
Advancement from within is often hard to come by these days in
corporate America. Hiring managers often will look outside before
seeing if one of their own people can advance up from a lower level.
Unfortunately, this attitude, which holds that "you're only as good as
your last job", is seen too often. A file clerk just can't get anyone
to take them seriously when they say they want to advance through the
ranks. Sure, they'll smile and nod, and say some encouraging words, but
when the rubber meets the road, your name's not going to be in the pot
when they're considering candidates for that management job. Unisys
seems to be one exception here. A file clerk you can get an MCSE on
their nickel, and move into the IT department. I wonder if Unisys will
eventually run short of file clerks.