Cisco has set an ambitious new goal of providing digital skills and cybersecurity training to 25 million people over the next 10 years as part of its Networking Academy program, and this year marks the 25th anniversary since Cisco launched “NetAcad” to address the global skills shortage.
Networking Academy is an employment skills program, which prepares people around the world for in-demand jobs in information technology. Cisco develops the courses and tools, and partners with government, universities, and nonprofits to train people for careers in networking, cybersecurity, and software development. In addition to IT and cybersecurity courses, the program offers hands-on learning through an educational platform.
The program is unique in the industry. I’ve been through the apprenticeship and certification program at Cisco since my days as an engineer and looked for something comparable but couldn’t identify one. There are dozens of tech companies that have certification programs, but Networking Academy is the only holistic program that builds skills and leads to certification and ultimately employment.
In the Networking Academy ecosystem, there are more than 11,800 academies offering courses, including high schools, vocational colleges, universities, and nonprofits. The program has also reached prisons, community centers, military bases and underserved citizens. To date, more than 17.5 million people have taken courses to learn digital skills. The vast majority of students – 95% – took courses aligned with Cisco certification, which led to a job or training opportunity.
Networking Academy began with a few high school partnerships in 1997. Today, the list of partners has grown to include a variety of companies. Cisco recently added a new Networking Academy partner – a company called experienced which specializes in professional IT resources and project services. Working with Cisco, Experis will provide learning paths to careers where there is demand for skilled workers. Experis’ goal is to place 1,000 people in IT, cybersecurity, networking, programming and data.
Over the years, Cisco has been diligent in expanding the program to an increasingly diverse audience. An example of this is Cisco bringing Networking Academy to historically black colleges and universities. He also spearheaded several initiatives to increase the number of female participants. About 26% of Networking Academy members are women, but that number started at almost zero 25 years ago and has been steadily increasing year after year.
A few years ago, Cisco shifted its mission from “Changing the way we work, live, learn and play” to “Powering an inclusive future for all”, and the Networking Academy is the ultimate manifestation of this as it has created opportunities for many people. in adverse situations. For example, in some countries, local jobs may be extremely rare, but people who have gone through the Networking Academy can work remotely for foreign companies. I have personally spoken to people from third world countries and low income areas of first world countries who credit Networking Academy as their current livelihood. Creating opportunities where none existed before is the definition of “inclusive”.
Last year, Cisco further expanded the Networking Academy by introducing a free program called Skills for all, which offers self-paced courses, interactive tools, and professional resources designed by industry experts. Skills for All tailors each learner’s experience to their unique career goals and interests. Anyone with an internet-connected cell phone can access the program’s adaptive learning technology, videos, and built-in gamification.
Cisco has since expanded Skills for All to include an entry-level certification for cybersecurity. Through the Cybersecurity Skills for All Learning Path, a person can earn a Certiport Cybersecurity Specialist certification and increase their chances of landing a job there. Cybersecurity technician, junior cybersecurity analyst, and help desk support are a few examples of entry-level positions where certification would be useful.
According to Cisco, the cybersecurity certification reinforces its commitment to building an inclusive future for all. At the height of the pandemic, Cisco conducted research that revealed the realities of the digital divide. It exists not only in developing countries, but also in rural areas and poor communities in the United States. Cisco 2020 Inclusive Future Report found that 3.8 billion people worldwide are still not connected to the internet. Cisco is committed to continuing to invest in IT education and skills to bridge the digital divide.
Its newly stated goal of training 25 million people in 10 years, announced on Tuesday, is ambitious but certainly necessary. We are in the midst of a massive shift in skill requirements due to automation, digitization and automatization. While these trends will kill some jobs, they will also create tens of millions of new jobs. Networking Academy is continually modifying its curriculum to be up to date and those who take it today will be in a unique position to capitalize on this transition in the most in-demand skills.
Zeus Kerravala is a principal analyst at ZK Research, a division of Kerravala Consulting. He wrote this article for SiliconANGLE.