Nurturing skills the Cisco way
Lokesh Mehra, regional manager - corporate responsibility, Cisco South Asia, tells Radhika Pancholi about NetAcad and Cisco's initiatives to develop talent from the huge human resources pool.Updated: May 07, 2008, 22:40 IST
Internet and education are, together, the great equalisers of this century, creating enormous opportunities for people and countries that succeed in harnessing the power of information and knowledge. This is one of Cisco's firm beliefs. It is this belief that has led the IT major to introduce Cisco Networking Academy Program (NetAcad) that is aimed at addressing the lack of Internet-supported education and shortage of technology-savvy workers, which are fast becoming global dilemmas. Lokesh Mehra, regional manager - corporate responsibility, Cisco South Asia, tells Radhika Pancholi about NetAcad and Cisco's initiatives to develop talent from the huge human resources pool that India provides.
Could you tell us more about the talent development initiatives at Cisco?
Cisco has two key talent development initiatives targeted at students—Cisco Networking Academy and Learning@Cisco. The former is a philanthropic initiative run on a highly successful alliance between Cisco, educators and governments. Under the Learning@Cisco initiative, the company offers the complete range of authorised Cisco training materials and certifications to organisations designated as Cisco Certified Learning Partners. In India, Cisco recently forged partnerships with India's largest technology training organisations, IIHT and NIIT, who along with Global Knowledge and Datacraft, provide Cisco official curriculum and certification to students in their centres situated across 200 locations in India. By establishing partnerships and opening additional testing facilities, Cisco aims to expand its India networking workforce capacity to 3,60,000 in the next five years, a six-fold increase over present levels.
What is the Cisco Networking Academy and how does it help in creating trained manpower?
Lack of Internet-supported education and shortage of technology-savvy workers are global dilemmas, threatening to place nations that fall behind at a permanent disadvantage in the new economy. The Cisco Networking Academy is a timely response to such challenges. Through an innovative partnership with government, educational institutions, we are creating a pool of trained manpower and addressing the growing need of networking professionals. In India, the initiative was launched in 2001 and since then, over 170 institutes covering 9,000 students have benefited. Cisco provides the following to the institutes, free of cost: cutting edge web based curriculum developed by international experts; administrative Learner Management System and simulation tools; and a 24 x 7 helpdesk support. Cisco also offers equipment to the institutes and faculty training at a discounted price.
What is the relevance of Cisco Networking Academy in the Indian scenario?
In India, almost every sector – be it IT or manufacturing – is facing a tremendous challenge in terms of finding suitable talent. However, nowhere is the problem more acute than in the IT/ ITeS sector. As per the recent IDC report, India will have a shortfall of over 1,18,000 skilled networking professionals in the current year. The gap is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 39 per cent, the fastest in Asia-Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) region to reach 1,37,200 professionals by 2009. This shortfall will have an impact on long-term economic growth of the country. The advanced networking skills gap is growing at the fastest rate in the APeJ region, which may threaten India's competitiveness. The huge software talent pool available in the country means that India has the opportunity to be a resource base for the networking industry worldwide. The whole idea is to provide necessary skill sets which are in line with the industry requirements. India is among the most important countries for the Cisco Networking Academy initiative.
How does the programme bridge the urban-rural digital divide and the gender divide?
It bridges the 'digital divide' as it takes technical education to non-metros and semi-urban areas particularly in states that have so far not benefited much from the IT and technology wave sweeping the country.
Cisco Networking Academy also focuses on bridging the 'gender divide' by forging tie-ups with women-only institutes to impart networking education. Cisco also has the Women's Action Network (WAN) - a volunteer employee network of women within Cisco. 'Girls in Technology' (GIT), a community outreach program hosted by WAN, is an interactive engagement between Cisco and engineering colleges to educate young women on careers in IT.
How many people have benefited from Networking Academies so far?
Nearly 9,000 students have benefited in India from NetAcad. There are over 2,000 additional students enrolled in the nearby SAARC countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.