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Feature

Right Skills, Right Place

Northwest uses NETg tool to match training with skill gaps.
Most businesses are trying to do more with less. Northwest Airlines Corp. says skills-gap analysis software is letting its IT training department do just that. That's good news for a company that has slashed its staff and training budget.

The $11 billion airline, confronted with a major decline in travel, is relying on online course provider NETg's Precision Skilling software to identify training the remaining staff needs to fill the holes caused by layoffs. Northwest cut 10,000 positions, or 20% of its workforce, in the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "We let go of people quickly and didn't know what holes we'd find in terms of skills," says Information Services Education manager Colleen Fuhs, who oversees IT and career training for the airline.

About 300 IT positions were eliminated, including people with Lotus Notes development skills, she says. That could have posed a problem earlier this month when a Northwest director needed a Notes developer. However, Fuhs used the company's in-house skills-management system to find the one remaining IT employee with Notes experience. Then she used the Precision Skilling software to find out what training the worker would need for the requested project.

"Our skills-management system links us to the people, but Precision Skilling links the people's skill gaps to the appropriate training," Fuhs says.

Precision Skilling can work with enterprise resource planning software, learning-management systems, and leading databases to automate the process of matching employees' training needs with appropriate courses or learning materials. The technology creates two datasets--employee skills and competencies, and off-the-shelf and proprietary courses--and direct links so managers can search skill or training keywords.

For its 44,000 employees, Northwest has identified 3,300 important skills from 1,800 training options. The airline expected a manual skills inventory to take a year and a half; it took three days with Precision Skilling.

NETg's software, which was released last month, is the only E-learning tool that ties skills-gap analysis with training option search capabilities, says Cushing Anderson, a senior analyst with International Data Corp. "E-learning offers the ability to target specific training to employee's skill gap," he says. "But that requires knowing the skills gaps and determining what training will fix it."

A license for Precision Skilling is priced at $125,000.