I was having this discussion recently with Shawn Weisfeld, President of ONETUG and it's definitely a frustrating topic. As a former IT manager my team was always pushing to go to a class or a conference to "maintain their skills" but surprisingly few would make time to attend a Code Camp, MSDN Event, or just read a book on their own time. Why is that?
I know that MSDN & TechEd events tend towards 'look at our latest new features' and sometimes add in some sales pitch, but for the cost - free - I've seen some awfully good demos. Code Camps though, or my own SQLSaturday! don't suffer from the same market spin. You can totally ignore the few sponsors present, and there are enough sessions that you can skip the 'New Features in Product vX' if you want. So why does the Orlando Code Camp average 400 attendees when I'd easily bet there are 4000 .Net developers in Orlando? Why does the Orlando .Net User group average 30 attendees, and the SQL Group about 20?
Some of it is marketing I think, trying to get the word out to a bigger segment of the available audience. Some of it just seems to be a negative attitude towards anything free, that somehow if its free it must be of lower quality. User groups in particular seem to suffer from a perception that there is nothing of value for the advanced user, that the groups cater to beginners.
In fairness, I'm really only complaining about those that don't take advantage of free training that do nothing on their own. If you read SSC or SQLTeam or blogs or whatever, or buy the occasional book, good!
If it was up to me everyone would attend paid training all the time, mostly because Im in the training business and would benefit! In practice that's just not affordable or sustainable. So what about you blog reader? Are you looking at alll the training options available to you and making good choices, or just waiting on the boss to approve the next training trip?