"I think we invest in people here as much as anywhere else," Carvouni says. "Training has to be relevant, though, to what you're doing or what you're likely to do in the next 12 months. I had one guy who was disappointed because he wanted to do an advanced course on designing large router networks. But we outsource the network, so if it's of no value to the organisation, we won't do it."
At the same time, and for various reasons of government employment and payment rates, half of the 200 or so people in Carvouni's department are contractors as opposed to RTA employees. This enables him to import specific skills when required instead of necessarily training his own staff. "If we make a generational change in technology, we use the contractors to actually seed the team and bring the skills in. Realistically, we might send some contractors on some courses [if there is specific value to the RTA], but contractors are pretty much expected to carry their own training," Carvouni says.
The RTA also has a number of outsourcing arrangements. Again, Carvouni says the outsourcing partner is responsible for training its own people. However, as part of his selection criteria, Carvouni naturally expects any outsourcer he deals with to keep its employees' skills up to date and have equally sympathetic training policies.
Carvouni says his spending on training, which comes out of his general IT budget, has remained pretty static over the past 12 months. He finds it very hard to measure the actual return on that expenditure, though, and tends to rely on the feedback of those returning from courses.
As a general observation, Carvouni believes that with the demise of the human resources department in many organisations there has been a corresponding reduction in the caring and nurturing of staff over the years. He consequently tells his people that they have to be self-sufficient and take the initiative when it comes to requesting training and determining their professional development needs. "I don't want to evade my line management responsibilities and it's not the organisation saying it won't pay for training. We have a budget but I don't have a whole army of people to help you," Carvouni says.
Training for Management Skills
Out west, Perth-based Water Corporation outsources much of its IT function to CSC and focuses its in-house IT efforts on the strategic aspects of IT and managing service delivery. Reflective of this model, Water Corporation's IT training requirements are relatively modest and centre more on management than technical skills, according to CIO Brian Kavanagh.
"I position training as part of a broader staff development and performance management process," Kavanagh says. "We look to develop general staff competencies, and training might be one solution along with project assignments and rotation through different positions to equip people with the competencies for present and future roles. From a business point of view, we put a lot of emphasis on staff being able to do their job.
Some staff may not attend any instructor-led training, for example, but they have found on-the-job training to be effective."
However, since 1998, following its corporatisation two years earlier, the organisation has invested heavily in SAP and is trying to reduce its dependence on external consultants in this area. There has therefore been an additional need for internal staff to keep their technical SAP skills up to date in order to deliver end-user education and support and provide ongoing system configuration.
IT training expenditure is managed within the overall IT budget, Kavanagh says, and is largely independent of other functions within the organisation. Although he declines to give actual figures, Kavanagh says that spending on training has been significantly higher in the past 12 months because of the SAP emphasis and the result of implementing new platforms, and is likely to remain at the same level for the next 12 months. As he points out, though, it accounts for only a small proportion of the overall cost of a staff member, and says that although difficult to measure its return, it can be leveraged to great benefit as long as it is targeted.
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