In Bob Miller’s view, more IT vendors should follow Cisco Systems Canada’s lead and initiate the type of training programs at the secondary and post-secondary education levels that the networking giant has.

Miller, a networking instructor at Toronto’s Centennial College, says in his 13-years

of teaching business and technology, no other IT company has come close to the level of commitment that Cisco’s Networking Academy offers. Heralding five years of what Miller calls “”contemporary courses that are in step with the high tech market”” the Academy operates in 360 institutions nationwide.

“”I call it e-learning in that you can do this course without a text book,”” Miller says. “”It’s not easy; they are difficult courses. For instance, a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) designation requires four 70-hour courses.””

Miller — who taught networking technologies at Camosun College in Victoria for eight years prior to joining Centennial’s faculty — praises Cisco’s efforts to attract young students towards a career in networking, particularly at the secondary school level. He says many high school graduates armed with basic CCNA training come to Centennial specifically to continue their education in the hope of earning an applied technology degree. “”The CCNA is delivered in over 125-odd high schools in Ontario, so many students arrive with up to three semesters worth of training and they come to Centennial to complete that

designation,”” he says, adding Centennial is the Academy’s area hub for training other instructors province-wide. “”What’s interesting about that is because of Cisco’s efforts in the high schools, we’re seeing more young women in our classes here at Centennial. Networking is traditionally male-dominated for some reason. It used to be (a

ratio of) 95 to five; now it’s more like 70-30, and that’s great to see.””

Launched in Canada in 1997, the Academy’s curriculum offers basic to advanced Internet technology skills and it’s designed to prepare students for industry-standard certifications such as the CCNA and the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) accreditation. Recently, Cisco expanded the curriculum to include partner-sponsored courses in Unix/Linux, Java programming, voice and data cabling, and security and wireless technologies.

In addition to heaping praise on Cisco for the actual curriculum, Miller also gives kudos to the company for refraining from using the courses of study as an advertising platform.

Jerry O’Brien turned his career fortunes around by studying the CCNA program at Kelowna, B.C.’s Okanagan University College last autumn. He’s yet to write the final exam that will formally designate him as a CCNA, but O’Brien, a former auto-upholsterer, “”jobbed out”” of school after partaking in a co-operative placement with the Thompson Interior Savings Credit Union, where he’s a network support technician to this day. “”It was a really good program, very current, and very true to life in terms of what I’ve experienced here since leaving the college,”” O’Brien says.

According to Anne Miller, Cisco Canada’s education market manager in Toronto, the Academy has grown beyond the company’s expectations worldwide. Now operating in 152 countries,the Academy is taught in nine languages to more than 468,000 students annually at 10,372 Academies. “”Educators realized their students are becoming more technologically savvy and the program was a good fit in the secondary school environment,”” she says. “”The curriculum is free, and I think (educators) saw the benefits of having their teachers trained in the program as well.””

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