With all the changes occurring in IT this year, we shouldn't be surprised that Microsoft is restructuring its training programs as well. For many years, students who wanted to learn about Microsoft products attended classes at Certified Technical Education Centers (CTECs), which have specific guidelines they must follow. You can find the complete CTEC program guide on the CTEC Web site\[http://www.microsoft.com/ctec/guide.htm\], but below are the three core requirements a CTEC must satisfy before it can offer classes to the public:

  • For the class, the CTEC must provide each student with a computer that meets specific hardware requirements.
  • A Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) must teach the class. The trainer must have proven his/her ability as a trainer and passed the certification exam that most closely tests the concepts that the course covers.
  • The MCT must teach each class using Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) or MSDN Training courseware.

In short, a student can expect CTECs to provide a comfortable, professional environment, a knowledgeable instructor, and high-quality courseware.

Starting in January 2001, both the MCT and the CTEC programs will change significantly. Before I explain how, let me make full disclosure by telling you that I've been an MCT for more than 6 years, and my company is a CTEC.

The good news is that all current MCTs must have earned the MCSE, MCSD, or MCDBA certification by January 1, 2001. If they don't, they can't teach a certified class in 2001 until they achieve a premium certification. The bad news is that Microsoft is eliminating the course-by-course certification for MCTs. The result of this change is that starting in January, any MCT will be able to teach any course, so next year, you could be sitting in a class about Windows 2000 with an instructor who hasn't passed a Win2K exam. Or you could find yourself in a Visual Basic (VB) class with an instructor who has never even taken a VB exam. As long as instructors have the MCSE, the MCSD, or the MCDBA certification, they can teach any class.

The major change to the CTEC program is really a change to the Microsoft Certified Solution Provider (MCSP) program. MCSPs have traditionally been highly focused on offering services based on Microsoft products. They offer such a wide range of services that it's impossible to place them in one category. One thing that they all had in common, however, was that they couldn't offer public classes using MOC. In 2001, MCSPs will be able to offer classes using MOC just as CTECs do, but MCSPs won't be required to follow the same guidelines CTECs must follow. Probably the most significant issue here is that there are no minimum standards for who can teach the class: Although it is possible that MCSPs will use someone who is highly skilled and experienced with the product covered in the class, they might also use trainers who have no experience with the product at all.

For you as a student, these changes mean that you will need to carefully investigate the qualifications of both the training provider and the trainer. Right now, you need to check out some things because CTECs vary widely in the quality of their facilities and in the experience levels of their trainers. Starting in a few months, however, you will need to tour the training facility, ask about the trainer's experience with the product, and ensure that the facility, courseware, and trainer can meet your training goals. As Microsoft quietly steps away from setting the standards for high-quality training, the burden now falls on you to protect your training investment.