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New Horizons rolled out a business skills curriculum about three weeks ago with a series of nine professional development courses that cover topics ranging from leadership and team building, to improving writing and presentation skills.
“We have a lot of people that have taken training that were initially network engineers or developers that are now managing teams of those people,” explained Mark McManus Jr., president and CEO.
“Now they need more people skills and they need to know how to manage projects, how to work as part of a team — all those things they didn’t have to consider when they were writing code or building networks. It really complements our product line well.”
New Horizons is already well known for IT training. About 85 percent of the company’s clients are corporate clients that send groups of employees for training.
Via six locations and 54 classrooms in Michigan, New Horizons trains about 85,000 to 90,000 people each year, McManus said.
It has technical education centers in Grand Rapids, Livonia and East Lansing and satellite operations in Ann Arbor, Troy and Kalamazoo.
The company will open another satellite location in Flint in November and is looking at opening another in Toledo in the first half of next year.
New Horizons does two different types of training — for general office users and for information technology professionals.
Among general office users, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word are the most popular courses and typically run every day, McManus said.
The second type of training is much more technical in nature and is geared to the IT professional who may be supporting a network or building programs.
In that category, the Microsoft Network Engineering courses are well attended, as are the Cisco classes that teach students how to configure Cisco routers and manage Internet connection.
A relatively new class gaining in popularity is the company’s Certified Security Program, which teaches students how to develop a security strategy for their network environment.
“It isn’t really specific to any one type of vendor software,” McManus said. “It’s more of a strategy class on how to take the resources you already have in place and more intelligently apply them to making sure people can’t hack into your system, making sure you have a good password strategy and those types of things.”
New Horizons centers have had designation as Microsoft Certified Technical Education Centers for many years, McManus said.
In August, its Grand Rapids center became the first computer training company in West Michigan to receive the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner for Learning Solutions designation, a designation that recognizes partners that have met a series of stringent requirements.
New Horizons’ Livonia center also received the designation in August. They’re the only training centers in Michigan awarded the designation and are two of only about 15 training organizations in the United States to hold it, McManus said.
Organizations so certified have a sales staff trained through Microsoft’s consultative training program.
Microsoft looks at instructor qualifications to determine whether an organization has “the right stuff” and the capacity to deliver Microsoft solutions.
“Our instructors had to be certified in a very wide variety of Microsoft technology, with specific emphasis on Microsoft emerging technologies,” McManus explained.
He said Microsoft did an in-depth case study on a customer New Horizons had trained in emerging Microsoft technology.
“Then, on a quarterly basis, Microsoft checks to see if our volume of students trained, particularly on their emerging technologies, meet their predefined criteria,” McManus said.
“So, one of the big requirements of being a Gold Learning Solutions partner is that we’re constantly on the leading edge of emerging technologies. That’s really the key to this.”
For customers, he said, the designation is proof that New Horizons is being held to a higher standard than any other training company in the market and is meeting that standard.
It also indicates that New Horizons instructors have a tremendous amount of background knowledge in the subjects they’re teaching and that the organization is a good resource for information on what the future of Microsoft technology is going to hold, McManus added.
McManus and his father, now semi-retired, previously owned Computer Training & Support Corp., which did software development, contract placement and training.
In 1992, they changed the company’s name to New Horizons of Michigan after securing the franchise. In 1994 and 1995 they sold off the software development and contract placement divisions to focus solely on training.
In the beginning, the company’s only full-service center was in Livonia. Grand Rapids and East Lansing were satellite operations that evolved into centers.
“Hopefully, over the years Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Troy and Flint will have that same evolution,” McManus added.
From 1992 to 2000, New Horizons of Michigan’s annual average growth rate was around 35 percent. During the first three years its growth rate was more than 100 percent a year, McManus recalled.
“We went from a half-million in annual revenue in 1992 to $30 million in revenue in 2000.”
Growth contracted significantly in 2001, which McManus attributes to corporate belt tightening.
“When companies start to cut budgets, typically advertising, travel and training are things that go first,” he said.
“Because 85 percent of our revenue comes from corporately funded students, we felt that quite a bit. In 2001 our revenues were about $24 million, so we contracted about 20 percent. This year, we’ll probably be flat with last year.”
Compared to its peers in other states, the Michigan franchise has historically outpaced other computer training companies significantly, he said.
In 2000 the company cut the number of classrooms in Detroit from 60 to 30.
“Instead of having such a large presence in the Detroit market, which was the market impacted most by the change in economy, we decided to redeploy those assets to other cities where we hadn’t experienced much growth yet.”
It appears to have worked, he said. The company is growing especially well in Grand Rapids and Lansing. McManus thinks that regardless of what the economy does, the company is sized and scaled for growth right now.
“We’re going to put more of a focus on our career training business because there are a lot of people that are in transition that could benefit from our certification programs.
“I would suggest that in the next 12 months we’re probably going to feel like company that’s growing again instead of one that’s rightsizing.”
New Horizons parent company, New Horizon’s Computer Learning Centers Inc., was founded in 1982 and is based in Anaheim, Calif.