Dale Weinke estimates that within a week after he first implemented the computer-repair skills his employer, Arvig Telecommunications, sent him out into the world to acquire, he saved the company $2,000, or "well over what it paid for the course." If its systems keep breaking at that same rate, Arvig, a small independent telephone company in Pequot Lakes, Minn., will save a good $100,000 a year -- well over what it pays Weinke.

Not every business has as many PCs as Arvig does (more than 50), but given the often unnecessary cost of downtime (third-party service centers report that more than 35% of computers sent in for repair aren't actually broken) and the tangible cost of repair time (as much as $60 an hour), it can be timesaving and cost-effective for even a modest-size company to bring maintenance in-house by sponsoring an employee's attendance at a computer-upkeep course.

The course Weinke attended was staged by National Advancement Corp. (NAC), a training company headquartered in Santa Ana, Calif., with classrooms in major cities across the country. At $1,400 for a five-day seminar on IBM-type PCs and $1,150 more for another two and a half days on printers, the NAC course covers the troubleshooting and hands-on repair (mostly by component replacement) of just about every ailment a desktop is heir to. "You definitely need to stay awake for a week," Weinke says. Another thing an attendee definitely needs: a technology bent. "I don't know a person who could go in there without an electronic background and comprehend what they were telling him," he warns. The fix-it-in-house notion has proved so appealing among downsizing corporations that NAC's own revenues have soared from $300,000 in 1987 to $2.5 million in 1992. NAC recently added advanced courses in Macintoshes and networks. For information, call 800-832-4787. -- Robert A. Mamis