This morning I happened to talk with individuals at three different SharePoint consulting firms in the Boston area, and each one of them said the same thing: "we need more people." Many of the firms I'm in contact with are hiring for talented SharePoint resources, and this is the trend not just in this area or country but around the world. They're looking for a special mix of technical adeptness, SharePoint knowledge, and people skills. For many companies, it's not an option to hire skilled resources who don't have specific SharePoint experience, because no-one has the time to train them on the job. These companies simply need SharePoint expertise (wrapped in a customer-friendly package), NOW.
The ideal business to start at this moment would be a SharePoint school, offering a certification program that could rapidly turn out graduates to fill this growing need. I envision a hybrid of the 5-day SharePoint courses you can find today, a semester-long business school course, and an internship. This would be a six-month program of in-depth, hands-on SharePoint training, with a choice of administrator or developer tracks, that would incorporate business analysis, project management, and consulting skills. The training would be focused around different projects and environments, rather than theoretical book-learning (it should be the IT equivalent of the photo above). The assumption is that someone coming into this program would already have a certain level of technology skill/knowledge, just not with this product. Ideally it would be offered in-person at different cities around the country, and could possibly be an immersion experience with dormitories at each facility.
The trick is, the cost would need to be low enough that someone who's out of work or looking for a career change could afford it. With the U.S. Government's current focus on providing more jobs, there might be a way to get the program funded or subsidized. Desperate consulting firms could provide scholarships. The starting salary of the freshly-minted graduate would be an incentive as well.
So who among you is looking for a business venture with an educational focus and a market that's starving for your output? (Looks like I'm going to have to add a category to my tags - "If I were an entrepreneur.")
Update 2/18/10 - I'm told that some training institutes do the Indentured Servitude model, where tuition is very low if the student agrees to work as a contractor for the institute for a year (or more?) after graduation. School acts as placement agency and reaps half the first-year salary... I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has gone through this kind of experience for technical training.
Update 3/11/10 - Marc D. Anderson, @sympmarc on Twitter, pointed me to this site:
which promises soon-to-be-released "university-style online education about SharePoint." Ideally I think in-person training is the best way to go, but I understand that economic & geographic limitations make online training the best or only option for many folks.