After evaluating its Partner Program participation rates and market opportunity potential, Microsoft Corp. has decided to move some of its channel program specializations up into competencies to help partners grow their business.
In addition, Microsoft has also taken on a proactive approach to help bridge the IT skills gap in Canada through its work with its learning partners.
Carol Terentiak, senior partner development manager of Microsoft Canada’s Partner Program, explained that beginning in May, Microsoft’s Hosting Solutions and Business Intelligence specializations will both be elevated to the Competencies level in the company’s Partner Program.
“These areas are becoming very active for us. We’ve decided to make these competencies of their own,” Terentiak said. “We see market opportunities here so we will expect higher targets from partners and we will be giving them access to more resources to help them grow their business as well,” she said.
Currently, Terentiak said Microsoft Canada has about 13,000 Registered partners, 650 Certified partners, 490 Gold partners and about 70 partners enrolled in Microsoft’s Excellence Program.
Terentiak added Microsoft’s Partner Program is a mature program and has been in effect for quite some time now with some modifications made along the way, the company’s focus right now is on its existing partners.
“We’re looking to grow with our existing partners by helping them grow their business,” Terentiak said. “Partners are really helping us sell our business and our technologies and we want to make sure we are making the right investments for them.”
In addition to helping its existing partner community, Terentiak also mentions that Microsoft has teamed up with its learning partners including triOS and Nexient Learning to help address the current challenges of IT staffing and the IT skills shortage in Canada.
Frank Gerencser, CEO at triOS, and also a Microsoft Canada learning partner, explains that ever since the dot-com bust, people have been steering clear of post-secondary education dealing with the IT realm.
“Ever since the dot-com bust people and their parents have had this perception that there aren’t any jobs left in IT,” Gerencser said. “In fact, there’s no better time than now to start an IT career because in a few years, there will be so many people retiring which means lots of job opportunities for new grads.”
Gerencser said triOS College offers students in one of its 29 locations across Ontario, IT and Microsoft Office training as part of its course offerings. He said the triOS Network Engineer (+ internship) program is a 14-month program which includes a two-month field placement with a corporate customer or channel partner.
“Our program is a new program that just began in May of last year,” he said. “We’ll have interns available for placements this year in May.”
This is great for students, he said because they can be trained and certified on Microsoft processes while at the same time can gain on-the-job experience. For businesses, this provides them with a low-risk and low-cost opportunity to be able to try out individuals on a two-month basis to see if they will be a fit in their organization later.
Nexient Learning is another one of Microsoft Canada’s training partners and has headquarters in both Toronto and Sydney, N.S. Scott Williams, vice-president and chief learning officer at Nexient, said its training program targets college and university level students and faculty members.
“Our training covers Microsoft technologies, infrastructure, collaboration, and messaging,” Williams said. “Our certification program is complimentary to a public university or college program and is not meant to replace anything.”
When it comes to enrolment and learning, Williams said everything takes place in one of Nexient’s 17 learning centres located across the country.
“From what we’re hearing here at Nexient,” Williams said, “certification tends to be taken into consideration during the recruiting process. It seems that a lot of employers are using this as a benchmark and benefit when it comes to recruiting staff.”
Terentiak said taking a proactive approach with its learning partners is important for Microsoft to help alleviate the pressures seen with the IT skills shortage in Canada today.
While no other changes have been made to the Partner Program, Terentiak said if Microsoft were to make any new enhancements, additions and/or deletions to its program, its vision for the next two to three years will be unveiled during its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which is set to take place this July in Houston.
“My message to partners is to always tell us what you want,” Terentiak said. “If we can help our partners to be successful, then that’s when we can also be successful as a company.”