With global collaboration, “always-on” communication and an ever-increasing reliance on the network for critical business functions, nearly every organization in the world has a need for skilled IT and network professionals.
Despite this growing demand, our education system is struggling to keep pace with advances in technology and industry and is not preparing the next generation with the skills they will need to meet the enormous economic, social, technological and environmental challenges facing the postmillennial world.
The unfortunate consequence of this situation is a growing and significant gap between the number of jobs that require specific information technology and network skills and the number of qualified candidates to fill those positions.
This network-skills gap poses a serious threat for public-sector and private organizations alike that find themselves relying ever more heavily on technology to meet their basic business requirements.
What’s incongruous about this situation is that while the skills gap is growing globally, recent college graduates are facing high levels of unemployment, showing the educational inefficiencies in a system built largely upon the workforce needs of an industrial society.
Traditional career and technical training prepares students primarily for jobs that have changed drastically or are disappearing altogether in today’s information economy.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the past 12 years, employment in manufacturing has dipped 15 percent. At the same time, employment in professional, scientific and technical services will grow by 28.4 percent and add 1.9 million new jobs by 2014. The BLS estimates that employment in computer systems design and related services will grow by 39.5 percent and add almost one-fourth of all new jobs created over the next five years.
One way to overcome the skills gap is to adapt a multi-stakeholder approach to education that includes not only education leaders and teachers, but also government entities, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.
Many of the most effective educational initiatives combine the expertise and resources of all these contributors to create curricula that impart real-world skills and competencies that will serve students long after graduation.
Cisco Systems provides a model for this kind of partnership. Eleven years ago, the company launched the Cisco Networking Academy, an initiative within schools that now operates in more than 160 countries and counts more than 7,600 educational institutions as partners in educating the next generation of network professionals.
The Cisco Networking Academy has successfully partnered with educational, business, government and nonprofit organizations to deliver vendor-neutral curriculum that empowers the global IT workforce to encourage socio-economic development in communities around the world.
This program has demonstrated success in providing students of all ages and from all walks of life with advanced skills in networking and IT, leading to further academic exploration and career development. Graduates of the program benefit from gaining in-demand skills, increasing their earning power and advancing their education, all of which aid in the development of their local and national economies.
Today’s advances in technology will make the next decade an era that will be limited only by our imagination — and our ability to develop qualified IT professionals.