Australian ICT training giant DDLS has bought New Zealand’s largest provider of ICT and digital skills training, Auldhouse.
The A$16.6 million (NZ$17.3 million) deal will add close to 10,000 new students to DDLS’s rolls and three New Zealand campuses to the seven it already operates in Australia and the Philippines. Auldhouse, which has been operating for over 30 years, is New Zealand’s largest digital skills training provider.
With campuses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, it boasts a blue-chip client base of government and corporates including the New Zealand Defence Force, Kainga Ora, Auckland Transport, Spark NZ, ASB and healthAlliance.
Like DDLS, Auldhouse delivers vendor and industry-certified courses as an authorised training partner of Microsoft, AWS, Cisco, VMware, Google and many others.
DDLS CEO Jon Lang said despite the challenges of COVID-19 and lockdowns present in both countries currently, DDLS and Auldhouse adapted their delivery models to provide critical training virtually to client businesses undergoing rapid digital transformation.
“With organisations rapidly migrating to the cloud, along with the increasing importance placed on cybersecurity, we’re seeing the demand for digital skills are at an all-time high across the ANZ region,” Lang said.
The acquisition will afford customers new opportunities with increased digital product offerings, a larger range of course events, a deeper pool of highly experienced and credentialed trainers, and the infrastructure across DDLS and Auldhouse to support continued growth, he said.
The move also marked a significant step in DDLS’ objective of growing in the greater APAC region.
Auldhouse managing director Melanie Hobcraft will continue to head operations in New Zealand reporting to Lang. Hobcraft said DDLS and Auldhouse had very similar cultures and the sale would open training opportunities for clients operating in both countries.
“There is no other IT training provider that can match our geographic reach, breadth, depth, and regularity of public scheduled courses,” she said.
“We’ll be able to expand this significantly with DDLS vendor and course offerings, including its industry leading cybersecurity training.”
Microsoft training constituted the largest portion of both companies’ offerings, with courses in ITIL, PRINCE2, VMware, Cisco, AWS and Google amongst those also in high demand.
The two companies already had a long-standing collaborative relationship, Lang said.
The Auldhouse business would continue to run as normal, with existing management and Hobcraft and her co-owners, Leigh Richardson and Craig Jones, all agreeing to remain in their roles.
Hobcraft said profits at Auldhouse had increased by 88 per cent since the management buyout and even in lockdown last year increased by 16 per cent.
In 2016, the company made a prescient investment, in a live online training service, Auldhouse Anywhere, which had been a crucial capability during the pandemic.
DDLS was not the only organisation to express interest in Auldhouse, Hobcraft said.
“What was really important to me and my fellow shareholders was that if we were going to sell the business we wanted to go into an organisation that understood the complexities of running and IT training organisation,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges was staying ahead of technological change which was a major driver of activity and business.
“Everything in life is about timing,” Hobcraft said. “We’d had the best year ever and if we were going to sell our precious baby it had to go to good hands.”
Auldhouse was founded by Judy and Duncan Forrest 32 years ago, sold into BlueStar Group and then became part of Wang, later known as Gen-i.
Gen-i was sold to Telecom NZ, which in due course became Spark, before the current trio of shareholders executed a management buyout eight years ago.
The combined DDLS and Auldhouse group now has around 150 people and over A$50 million in revenue.