Ciscos Global Training Machine

By Fay Hansen

Nov. 20, 2008

Every year, Cisco trains 600,000 students world­wide in information and communication networking skills through its Networking Academy, a project that began quite fortuitously in 1997 when the company reached out to a single school.

    Since the academy’s inception, more than 2 million students have graduated from 10,000 programs in 165 countries.

    The academy program covers 280 hours of training using a combination of Web-based and instructor-led sessions along with a hands-on lab environment to teach students how to design, build and maintain computer networks. In Central and Eastern Europe alone, 32,000 students have passed the first four semesters that make up the Cisco Certified Networking Associate level. The company now operates 744 academies in the region.

    “The Networking Academy is not a recruitment arm for Cisco,” says Markus Schwertel, academy manager for Cisco’s Central and Eastern European region. “Students can apply for positions with Cisco and many are hired, but the objective is broader. We are not filling the pipeline for the IT sector, but many of the students find jobs in the sector even before they graduate.”

    The scale of the project is different from Cisco’s direct needs, notes Agnieszka Halas, Cisco’s human resources manager for Central and Eastern Europe.

    “But all supply chains in the region are related, and you need people who have IT and networking knowledge in your supply chain and in the economy as a whole,” Halas says. “Cisco also is building its employee brand in the region, and the Networking Academy contributes to this. Our employees demonstrate a pride not only in our products but also in Cisco’s work in the ecosystem it helps create.”

    Imagine the 51,000 Central and Eastern European students who are now enrolled in the academy, Schwertel says.

    “If in the course of their future careers each one builds only one network, that would have a significant impact for Cisco—not today, but in five years or 10 years,” he says. “The academy is not a business line; it’s a not-for-profit enterprise. Part of the mission is to invest in the communities where we do business. This is a long-term global perspective.”

    Cisco is using the academy model to build out its new Entrepreneurship Institute across Central and Eastern Europe, with pilot programs in Turkey, Poland and Hungary. “The Entrepreneurship Institute is the logical next step for using our experience with the Networking Academy to build an ecosystem that includes business skills,” Halas notes. “The managerial skill set is a piece that is missing in the market.”

    One of Cisco’s objectives for the Entrepreneurship Institute is to strengthen the small and midsize business sectors, which represent 60 percent of all business.

    “They are the lifeblood of the region,” Halas says. “The educational system is gearing up to meet the needs of a free-market economy, but there is some lag in building the local labor markets. Larger companies and multinationals can find the needed skills through the inflow of talent and the transfer of knowledge within the company. But small and midsize businesses don’t have this access and must draw from the educational institutions. Their access to business knowledge drives their growth and creates growth opportunities for Cisco.”

Workforce Management, November 17, 2008, p. 30Subscribe Now!

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