Twenty years ago, Cisco recognized a shift toward a knowledge-based economy. We felt it was important that everyone have an opportunity to participate in this economy—and that education, combined with technology, would have the power to achieve that. From this, Cisco Networking Academy was born.

What began as an act of community turned into a global movement as schools, students, and teachers were inspired to harness the power of technology to provide the skills people and businesses need to thrive in the digital economy.

Today, we look back at how this IT-and-career-skills-building program has reached 7.8 million students in 180 countries since 1997 and highlight best practices and lessons we’ve learned along the way.

1. Adapt to technology trends and ensure programs are digital, flexible, hands on, and relevant.

Technology is transforming the nature of jobs and continuously evolving the needs of today’s employers. New technologies are connecting everything, intuitively adapting, and better protecting users and their data. Research from Gartner shows that 1.4 million full time employees will be needed to deliver application and business services for the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020, and education programs must prepare students for these changing needs.

Today, we provide students a more personalized and flexible education experience, as well as the opportunity to build deeper knowledge through collaboration and experiential learning. In addition to classroom-based, face-to-face instruction, we also offer a portion of our curricula directly to students for those who want to learn at their own pace.

From the start, students are encouraged to solve real-world problems on their own or in groups, just as they will in the workplace. For example, Cisco’s Packet Tracer, a network simulation and visualization tool, allows for student-directed, open-ended network building. It facilitates the teaching and learning of complex technology concepts and promotes the development of essential career skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and creative problem solving. Additionally, hackathons and hands-on lab challenges allow students to create solutions together.

2. Continuously introduce new digital skills.

Changes in the technology landscape mean students need to continuously master new digital skills. Technical education programs today must include areas of study such as security, machine learning, and programming, and evolve as technology does.

We partner with in-house experts, governments, educational institutions, and employers, and use research to ensure our curricula portfolio remains relevant over the long term. Networking Academy builds a solid digital foundation through courses like Cybersecurity Training Essentials and Programming Essentials in C, and students can also acquire career-ready skills that prepare them for entry-level jobs in networking and cybersecurity. We regularly develop new courses that cover big data, analytics, and device connectivity, some of the fastest-growing job areas.

About the Author:

Tae Yoo leads Cisco’s social investments and stewards CSR and sustainability across the business. She directs Cisco’s business, technical, and financial assets to accelerate global problem solving to positively impact people, society, and the planet.


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