A corporate training specialist has increased its IT education capabilities through the acquisition of assets from triOS Corp.

Halifax-based CrossOff Inc. has completed the acquisition of the corporate training business of triOS Training Centres Ltd., a triOS subsidiary. The business will be

integrated with Polar Bear Corporate Education Solutions, a division of CrossOff.

Based in Mississauga, Ont., triOS Training Centres Ltd. is a Microsoft Gold partner for learning solutions, which also offers courses in Novell and other products. The company was founded 12 years ago and had revenues of about $6 million as of last year.

Polar Bear was started in 1990 in Winnipeg. IBM purchased it in the early 1990s and grew it into a national training institute, with 23 locations between Victoria, B.C. and St. John’s. CrossOff bought the company from IBM two years ago.

It had been involved in corporate training in Atlantic Canada under the name BroadLeaf before buying Polar Bear.

“”The biggest attraction with triOS is its huge strength in the technical application side of things,”” says Murray Ryan, CrossOff’s CFO. “”We are very strong in the application side (such as) Word, Excel and that sort of thing, but triOS has an outstanding reputation and track record.””

Polar Bear is particularly interested in triOS’s expertise in programming, network administration and database management, Ryan says.

TriOS employs about 50 people, the majority of whom will be moving over to CrossOff, Ryan says. Both firms have offices in Mississauga and downtown Toronto locations, and the plan is to maintain all sites in the near term, he adds.

“”One of the biggest things when it comes to the training sector is that it’s very capital-intensive,”” he says, adding that customer loyalty makes winning business difficult. “”There is a very slim chance at being able to pull them away from their current supplier.””

Ryan says the best way for CrossOff to grow its business is to scoop up companies that provide services complementary to what CrossOff is offering.

“”Much more of the growth potential is from acquisition, as opposed to offering discounts,”” he says.

Carol Lyden, publisher of online resource centre the Training Report, says the demand for corporate training services has remained relatively stable in the past few years, but that doesn’t mean business has been booming.

“”There’s been just the usual flux,”” she says. “”It’s a difficult segment of the industry. People want it, but they don’t want to pay for it. Because it’s not affected by any kind of legislation — it’s not payroll, for example — it’s more of a discretionary item on the budget.””

Ryan cited banks, government and telecom suppliers such as Nortel among Polar Bear’s clientele. The firm also recently signed a three-year training deal with IT services company Xwave.

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