Cisco Systems Inc.: Building a High-Tech Workforce

July 16, 2009
Partnership with school to build next-generation employee skills gains recognition from President Obama

On the same day President Obama spoke at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich., to outline a federal spending plan for two-year schools, Cisco Systems Inc. launched a workforce training initiative at the school that's designed to support technology-based jobs.

The president praised Cisco's Workforce Retraining Initiative (WRI) during his July 14 speech, according to the company. The initiative will build on the company's Networking Academy training program, which already enrolls 128,000 students across the country. The Michigan WRI will focus on broadband, network security and health care information technology training to align with the state's economic-recovery strategy.

Through the WRI, Cisco will offer additional courses in security and a more advanced program for broadband technicians and engineers at all 21 Michigan community colleges beginning in September. In addition to Macomb, Cisco is partnering with Henry Ford Community College, Oakland Community College and Davenport University in Michigan to offer a pilot program in health care IT that is scheduled to begin in January.

The Networking Academy began in 1997 as a program to educate people on how to install and use Cisco products. Since then, the company has invested more than $350 million into the program, and there are more than 2,200 Networking Academies in the United States.

The program benefits Cisco by increasing the talent pool of professionals who can install and operate the company's networking technology, said Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers in a July 14 statement. But the program is not specifically designed to teach students how to work with Cisco-only products. Rather, it's designed to teach general networking technology.

Cisco Systems
At A Glance

Cisco Systems
San Jose, Calif.
Primary Industry: Computers & Other Electronic Products
Number of Employees: 66,129
2008 In Review
Revenue: $35.9 billion
Profit Margin: 20.36%
Sales Turnover: 0.67
Inventory Turnover: 10.99
Revenue Growth: 13.22%
Return On Assets: 15.10%
Return On Equity: 25.58%
"The skills and knowledge gained in our programs widely apply to any IP-based network, which these days are pretty much all new networks," Chambers said in the prepared statement. "So Networking Academy graduates can obtain jobs involving a broad spectrum of IT and networking equipment, not just Cisco's."Cisco has committed "several million dollars" to the program for course development and IT support. The schools will provide the instructors classrooms and lab equipment, Chambers said.

The program's success will depend on how effective the courses are at attracting unemployed workers, training the students and helping them obtain certifications and new jobs, according to Chambers.

The timing of the WRI couldn't be more appropriate. Politicians and industry leaders have been clamoring for more collaboration between the business community and educational institutions to develop workforce skills.

Obama's recently announced plan calls for the nation's two-year schools to receive $12 billion for developing programs that will help U.S. workers attain in-demand skills.

Chambers said he thinks partnerships between public and private sectors are the most effective way address social issues.

"Today, more than ever, government and the private sector need to join together," he said in the July 14 statement. "No one entity can do this sort of thing as effectively as governments, businesses and other institutions working collaboratively. By combining the unique capabilities and resources from Cisco, the federal government, state governments, local communities and educational institutions, we have a very good chance of creating programs that can provide much-needed help during this recession, as well as building a foundation for the long-term success of the country."

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