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Symbol has launched a new RFID training and certification program, geared strictly to channel partners such as resellers and integrators with the right combination of implementation skills and RFID commitment.

Symbol Technologies Inc. officially unveiled the new program last week, as part of a larger announcement of an upgraded “next generation” PartnerSelect Program for 2005.

But an initial batch of about 55 graduates has come through Symbol’s RFID training gates already, said Alan Melling, Symbol’s senior director of AutoID Technologies, in an interview with The Channel Insider.

Most, but not all, RFID trainees in the first group were partners inherited through Symbol’s acquisition of Matrics Inc. last March.

Symbol’s effort is the latest in a string of RFID training programs—some open to both end customers and channel partners—now being launched by various organizations to help meet industry demand for RFID technical skills.

At this point, Symbol is opening up applications for its training program to all interested members of PartnerSelect. Yet the company plans to be selective in deciding which partners will be trained, Melling said.

Symbol will train four people from each participating company: two salespeople and two technical people. The salespeople will receive two days of online training, whereas the RFID tech specialists will get two days of hands-on training in Symbol’s labs.

The program from Symbol is tailored specifically to partners with extensive hands-on implementation skills—particularly, although not necessarily, with bar code systems, Melling said.

Is RFID leading to good business for VARs? Read more here.

“This is not a program for ‘pure box’ resellers—people who take our product and then just turn it around,” according to Melling.

Program participants must also be willing to “invest in RFID as a business,” and to expand their expertise from year to year.

“If you only plan to sell one RFID reader a year, then this program definitely isn’t for you,” he said.

In March, Symbol competitor Alien Technology Corp. introduced an RFID training program—for high tech vendors, systems integrators and end customers—as part of a larger bundle of RFID products and services aimed at compliance with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s RFID initiative.

Click here to read more about supplier reaction to Wal-Mart’s RFID timetable.

Last fall, two industry associations—CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association) and AIM Global (Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility)—mapped out plans for an RFID training program for manufacturers, systems integrators and end customers. Services were expected to start in mid-2005.

Aside from Symbol’s new RFID training and certification offering, other improvements in Symbol’s PartnerSelect Program for 2005 include a new MFD (marketing development funds) component, expanded access for Business Partners and a revised program structure.

Symbol has also unveiled a new PartnerSelect Program specifically for ISVs, but ISV partners are not eligible for the RFID training and certification, according to Melling.

In another recent announcement, made in conjunction with RFID tag-maker Royal Philips Electronics, Symbol rolled out an RFID Gen 2 “Early Adopter Initiative” that will let participants evaluate Gen 2 tags, fixed readers and portable terminal readers as a system.

The first participants in the Early Adopter Initiative will be end customers. But in the future, Symbol might include channel partners in its Gen 2 evaluation program, too, Melling told The Channel Insider.