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CHITRA V. RAMANI

CISCO plans to meet shortfall of skilled IT hands



Sandy Walsh

According to a recent study, India is likely to have a shortfall of over 1.37 lakh skilled IT networking professionals this year. The gap is estimated to grow at a rate of 39 per cent, the fastest in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan. The shortfall will reach 1.80 lakh by 2009.

It is significant considering the fact that Indian companies are increasingly relying on their networking infrastructure to tap the new growth opportunities, a result of the improving economic conditions. This gap brings about the need to take steps to improve IT education in the country.

CISCO, to bridge the gap, has launched a specialised curriculum called CISCO Networking Academy (NetAcade) programme. “The programme helps CISCO address the problems of shortfall in a holistic manner. The programme is delivered online, through multimedia and a whole range of other tools along with regular classroom teaching. We stress on lab work and hands-on training,” said Sandy Walsh, Regional Manager-Education Programme and Social Responsibility, Asia Pacific, Cisco.

The gap in India is particularly acute because the numbers are large. As infrastructure develops, the gap is also increasing. This is unique to India. “NetAcad helps educational institutions stay at the lead by keeping the curriculum current and relevant. In this field, the content changes quickly. We are trying to build a pipeline for students interested in technology and get them to understand the importance of networking so as to feed into further education and jobs.”

Bilingual curriculum

Over the past year, a lot of changes have occurred. Within the core networking area, two different programmes are offered – one for technicians and another for higher enterprise officials. “We are also working on launching a bilingual curriculum. We understand that in many countries, it is difficult for students to be fluent in English, as needed. This way, we can ensure that their learning is not affected by the lack of or poor language skills. We later train them to better their language skills also.”

Ms. Walsh said that a very small percentage of women is in the IT field. “This is a phenomenon that we have noticed across the world. However, the reasons may vary in different countries. We at CISCO are very keen on opening up opportunities for women in networking.”

Lokesh Mehra, Regional Manager-Corporate Responsibility, South Asia, CISCO, said that the company has tied up exclusively with all-women institutes to encourage girls to learn about networking, which has been always considered as a male bastion. Cisco is creating a workplace that embraces a multitude of original minds and talents, and a range of generations, cultures and geographies. A workforce of inclusion brings a wealth of ideas, innovation and drive to the organisation.

WAN

The company has a Women’s Action Network (WAN), which was launched in 2005.

Through various programmes and mentoring circles, women employees connect with and support each other. “WAN focuses on employee empowerment and has become a forum for all diversity and inclusion initiatives. Over 3,000 employees participate in 32 Cisco WAN chapters in 24 countries. Volunteers have delivered more than 270 career development workshops globally in 2006-07."

The network was formed to leverage the talent of CISCO’s women employees and create opportunities for career development, mentoring/coaching, leadership development, work/life balance and community outreach. One of the important programmes of WAN is ‘Girls in Technology.’ GIT is an interactive engagement between Cisco and engineering colleges to educate young women on careers in Information Technology and empower them to succeed and continue their education in engineering and computer science. So far, over 5,000 students worldwide have been covered by the programme.

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