Cisco pledges massive commitment to digital skills training

'It's critical that companies invest heavily in employee development,' says VP/GM

Cisco pledges massive commitment to digital skills training

By 2025, 97 million new jobs will be created due to advances in technology and automation, according to the World Economic Forum.

And Cisco has just announced a new goal to prepare workers for those jobs.

The San Jose, CA-based tech juggernaut vows to provide digital skills training to 25 million learners over the next 10 years through its Cisco Networking Academy program, which is celebrating its 25th year.

Investing in digital skills training is more important than ever, says Laura Quintana, vice president and general manager at Cisco Networking Academy.

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“The world of work is changing, and the workforce needed to power our economy is evolving at an unprecedented pace,” Quintana told HRD. “It’s critical that companies invest heavily in employee development to retain and grow the great talent they already have. At Cisco, this is a priority, and employees are provided with various opportunities to develop new skills to support their growth and careers – what we think of as multiple career possibilities within the same company. 

“Employers also need to play a role in recruiting and supporting diverse talent by collaborating with governments, non-profits and/or academic institutions,” Quintana adds. “We all have a responsibility to developing the workforce needed to ensure all communities thrive in our increasingly digital economy.”   

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital automation across all industries and there’s an accompanying demand for individuals with the digital skills needed to support increasingly hybrid and remote capabilities. Digital acceleration opens the door not only for innovation, but also for increased security vulnerabilities, driving the need for more professionals with cybersecurity skills. For example, there are currently more than 700,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States, according to Cyber Seek.

The Cisco Networking Academy provides IT courses, learning simulators and educational opportunities to support instructors and engage learners in more than 190 countries. To date, more than 17.5 million global learners (including 3.2 million in fiscal year 2022) have taken courses. Since 2005, 3.4 million students have attributed their ability to obtain a new job to their participation in the program.

“Businesses need to re-think their hiring practices and hire for skillsets and candidate potential, not relying solely on candidates with a four-year degree,” Quintana says. “This will allow employers to reach a huge, untapped talent pool that was disproportionately impacted by the pandemic (e.g., low-wage workers, women and under-represented minorities).”

Read more: IBM SVP reveals how tech giant nurtures its future workforce

The Cisco Networking Academy has been fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces for years. In the U.S., 38% of its students are underrepresented minorities, including 20% Black or African American, 17% Hispanic or Latino and 1% American Indian/Alaska Native. Globally, more than 4.6 million women have participated in the program, and since 2019, the academy has served more than 150,000 students with disabilities.

“Leveling the playing field to provide access to our learning portfolio is important, which is why our courses and tools are provided free to our academies (high schools, community colleges, universities, non-profits) globally,” Quintana says. “In addition, last year we launched Skills for All, a mobile-first gamified experience offered directly to learners, providing individuals with the flexibility to learn from anywhere. We’re proud of our equitable and inclusive impact.”

As part of its ambitious goal, Cisco has announced a new partnership with Experis, a global leader in IT professional resourcing and managed services, which will focus on offering learning paths where the demand for skilled workers is far outpacing supply, including in areas like IT, cybersecurity, networking, programming and data, with an aim towards placing more than 1,000 people in new IT roles in the first year. Additionally, Cisco will be launching a new cybersecurity learning pathway culminating in an entry-level certification.

“We know that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity isn’t,” Quintana says. “We meet learners where they are with top-notch technology courses and provide a learning experience that enables them to master skills.”

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