It’s been a good year for the Cisco Networking Academy, which has the mission of promoting IT careers to high school and college students. The past 12 months have included unprecedented levels of interest in the program’s Job Shadow Day and networking events, as well as a visit to an Academy site from President Bush.
“It’s going really well,” said Gene Longo, senior manager of the Cisco Networking Academy’s field operations. “I feel really good about the visibility over the past few months. It’s interesting: As we have moved forward on a variety of levels, there’s actually been a lot of involvement with different groups within Cisco, from the channels group to the sales organization to even some folks in HR. I think that the big consensus out there is that there’s a need for more people, and I think that’s good news for students and graduates of the Academy program. It’s starting to be a good time again. I think it’s starting to help people realize that we have to stay competitive as a nation. We have to engage students back into engineering-, scientific- and technology-oriented programs.”
The program scored a major public relations coup a few months ago when an Academy site hosted then-Secretary of the Treasury John Snow during his visit to Cisco offices, Longo said. “We took him to a local community college. They had students that represented every segment. They had a high school student who was taking the course part time because she wanted to go on to computer engineering at Cal-Polytechnic State University. They had a mid-life career-changer who had been unemployed, who decided to add certification to his resume and actually got hired within 10 days of posting his resume on Monster.com. They had a student who graduated from a four-year university who couldn’t find a job and decided to enroll in community college.”
Although that was pretty amazing in itself, what followed was even more significant, he added. “All of these stories were so great that when Secretary Snow went back to Washington D.C., the next thing we knew we got a call from the White House saying, ‘The President would like to come out to Cisco.’ (President Bush) had an opportunity to meet with the president of the community college and talk about the Academy program, and then the next day, he highlighted it in his weekly radio address.”
Although the program can point to many achievements so far, the people running the Academy are hardly getting complacent. Longo said they’ll be stepping up their efforts in the coming months by kicking off Job Shadow Day sooner to accommodate more students and launching virtual field trips, in which students view video logs that feature IT professionals discussing their occupations. Additionally, Longo said he was interested in talking to potential partner organizations to expand the opportunities and resources available to young people interested in technology careers.
It’s important to continue to build up the program because there are a great many people out there who still have misconceptions about IT vocations, Longo explained. “In general, there tends to be a perception that jobs in technology are being outsourced outside the U.S. and that seems to deter students. There isn’t a lot of awareness on the parents’ side about what the career opportunities are. Likewise, there isn’t a lot of awareness among guidance counselors. We hear all the time from the states that guidance counselors just don’t know the breadth of career exploration that’s available to students today.”
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