One thing that might help would be to take some courses in general programming subjects, perhaps working toward a certificate of some sort if not an actual degree. My (albeit limited) experience in such matters suggests to me that any reasonably competent programmer can pick up a tool such as WinRunner or SilkTest and learn to use it, whereas specific tool training can be wasted on someone without a core competency in programming techniques.
Note also that this forum's sister site, www.qatraining.net, offers some on-line courses for some testing tools. (I have not taken any of them, so I cannot vouch for their quality/applicability.)
I have about 2 years of experience in manual web testing. I have worked with Test Director and I have some basic knowledge of WR. Right now I am unemployed and I want to upgrade my skillset in automated testing because I think it will help me to get a job soon. I want to do a WinRunner course in a Mercury Interactive authorised training center but the problem is Pittsburgh does not have any such training centers and the nearest one is about 5 hrs away. Another option that I am considering is CSTE but to apply for that I need to be a "working" professional which I am not right now.. I know that I need to upgrade my skillset soon or I'll become redundant in the job market. What should I do? What options are there for me? Please advise.....
You can download the Astra tools from Mercury. Those aren't as robust or whatever as the main tools but they might help. Also check out Empirix. They're often willing to let you download an eval and play around with it. You can also just learn general programming. I find that a lot better than knowing just one automated tool.