I am not making this up. As the saying goes, "Only in America."
We have the U.S. Department of Labor to thank for this tortured application of what someone, somewhere, in some parallel and totally inscrutable universe, would call "logic." So please suspend your disbelief for a moment as we explore the public funding of IT training programs within one of the largest and most widely recognized retail chains on the planet. (You can also check out the news item we ran last week that sparked my curiosity about this subject in "Developing IT's Future".)
As I understand it, this all started more than two years ago when the Department of Labor decided it would be a good thing for the IT profession to have an apprenticeship program. You see, the government agency felt that since the field of business technology is relatively new--only about 40 years old--it hadn't yet had a chance to develop an apprenticeship program and therefore needed to have an apprenticeship program, and who better to tell private industry what it needs than the Labor Department? So Labor contacts an industry organization called the Computer Technology Industry Association, known as CompTIA, and they chat about it, and Labor likes where the conversation's going, so it gives CompTIA $550,000 to spend 20 months--20 months!!--exploring and assessing whether such a program would work in the IT field and also setting up such a program for IT generalists.
A little more than a year later, in July 2002, Labor decides it likes the progress being made by CompTIA and gives it $475,000 to spend the next 18 months--yes, a year and a half--to develop additional apprenticeship tracks, including project management, and to establish pilot programs, which is where McDonald's enters the picture. The company, which has 10 apprentices in the program this year and hopes to have the same number in each of the next two years, will not disclose how much public funding it has received via CompTIA.
We all know what the road to hell is paved with, and no doubt some of that very same surface material was somehow originally behind all this. But if McDonald's and other companies want better training for their IT employees, then those companies should build their own programs or hire some experts. And if Labor and CompTIA want to be engaged in the business-technology field, then they should focus their good intentions and their public funding on finding jobs for unemployed IT professionals.
Bob Evans, Editor in Chief [email protected]