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Internet enlightenment Featured

9:36am EDT July 22, 2002

OK, admit it. You know all about the Internet and its future. You understand that all companies need to make the Internet part of their future.

But are you really making it part of your own?

Not exactly, according to Jon Steffey, director of business development and head of the Pittsburgh branch of WestLake Internet Training. He says more business owners and other top executives, while using the Internet at some personal levels, aren't using it to its fullest potential simply because they haven't taken the time to learn.

"You have to get people to learn more things," says Steffey of the challenge facing many local business owners and executives when it comes to the Internet.

That's why Steffey, who started working for WestLake at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., moved back to his native Pittsburgh, bringing with him the wherewithal to educate Pittsburgh businesses about Web training and development.

Here's what he's finding. Many of his students to date have turned to his operation because their bosses told them the company was launching a Web development initiative and they needed to find out how to use it -- and create their own sites. The owners themselves don't take the time to grasp the language and process, so they typically have been sending their administrative, secretarial and other support staff to learn the basics, such as the computer language, HTML and, more recently, XML.

"One of our big challenges has been that [managing a company's Internet strategy] has become an additional task for some people, but they don't want to turn down [the opportunity] because they're interested in it," Steffey says. "We've designed task-centric classes, but we're not geared toward people wanting to change careers."

Others are attending his classes, he says, to learn how to create active server pages, which integrate a Web site with their company's database. More and more, though, he says he has been teaching advanced classes for computer software developers and programmers who want to add HTML and other related programming languages to their knowledge bases, and for Web designers and developers who want to maintain the latest design skills.

But Steffey still isn't seeing a full commitment to learn more about the Internet from the decision-makers themselves: the presidents, CEOs and other senior executives. The reason, he suspects, is time.

"The biggest place they fall short is the available time they take to learn," he says. "People feel like they can't take the time to adequately learn these things."

But they should, he says.

"The most successful [leaders] are the ones who do, indeed, plan ahead and are proactive" when it comes to getting up to speed on the Internet and how it might help their companies.

Steffey says some companies are using such training as a means to "run existing employees through the transition," and as a retention tool, as well as an incentive for new employees.

Says Steffey: "One of the nice roles for training is that it fits well into a growth strategy." How to reach: WestLake Internet Training, (800) 357-2320 or www.westlake.com