Cisco is a fascinating company to watch because they seem to spend an unusual amount of time on projects that address industry and societal problems. A case in point is this week’s presentation lead by Laura Quintana, Vice President & General Manager, Cisco Networking Academy, on the Cisco Networking Academy program. This effort focuses not only on taking people with low paying jobs or who are unemployed and giving them a career but also on eliminating the huge gap in workforce skills, causing a drag on technology growth and revenues.
We have homeless, wage disparity problems, and entire cities that primarily exist below the poverty line. Fixing these problems is critical not only for individual advancement but also for turning the nation into a more balanced, less discriminatory world where fairness is more the rule than the exception.
Let’s talk about the Cisco Networking Academy this month and how it could be a path for advancement for those you care about and a path for qualified employees for the technical jobs that are currently unfilled.
Living In A Changing World
We are in what many of us call the 4th Industrial Revolution, and it promises to disrupt our lives, our beliefs, and our careers in dramatic ways. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 100M existing workers will need to change occupations by 2030 or face unemployment. And, given the rate of change, I think that is a massive understatement. Right now, 1 in 4 women is downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce, also according to McKinsey. This number is undoubtedly more accurate because it is closer to real time, but that number is likely to increase unless things dramatically change. And, according to the World Economic Forum, work performed by machines taking the place of humans will reach parity with work done by humans soon, if it hasn’t happened already.
These projections suggest that if companies and governments don’t step up, we will have a level of unemployment and business failure that will be unprecedented due to these changes. We can’t wait until 2030 to start changing; we need to begin to pivot people now or face a disaster of massive proportions.
Cisco recognized this coming problem early on and created the first large-scale effort to assure a dire outcome wouldn’t result from this 4th Industrial Revolution. They created the Cisco Networking Academy.
Cisco Networking Academy
In the fiscal year 2020, the Cisco Networking Academy enrolled 2.3M students. Harvard University (which Stanford University passed this year for the #1 spot), Yale University, MIT, Stanford University, and Columbia University collectively have under 100K students. With 28.4 thousand instructors, Networking Academy has more instructors than Columbia University (24.4K).
This massive educational effort that consists of online courses and a vast number of education partners, including colleges, universities and nonprofits, was designed to “transform the lives of learners, educators, and communities through the power of technology, education, and career opportunities to create an inclusive future for all.” With nearly 12K academies in 180 countries, Cisco has targeted some of the most underdeveloped areas for their help. And the effort has had impressive success, with 2.7M students saying that Networking Academy helped them obtain a new job. 95% of those participating in the program’s career courses attribute their success in employment or further education to their time there.
With the pandemic the effort has embraced remote education and students can attend their classes remotely and in person.
Camden Dream Center
One of the most exciting parts of the talk was led by Keith Davis, a Pastor and President and CEO of the Camden Dream Center in New Jersey. The Dream Center is a Cisco partner in this effort, and it was an excellent showcase. In Camden, 40% of the population lives in poverty, 64% of the potential students in the area live under a severe economic disadvantage, and the school there isn’t working out. Because tests show that only 2% of the students have math proficiency, only 5% have reading proficiency, and the high school graduation rate is 64%.
The Dream Center’s programs include skills training and workforce development, including registered apprenticeship programs, entrepreneurship training, and mentoring. The program is designed to lift the area through focused education and training. This training starts with K-2 efforts to expose the kids to foundational skills like STEM, continues through the 5th grade allowing these students to explore areas of interest, moves to 6-8th grade for foundational training, and then, depending on the student, advances them to fundamental skills and applied career training or advanced college.
They had one of the students, Joshua J. Medoza, 20 talk about his success in the program. Joshua was on the wrong path when he decided to attend Camden Dream Center and take Cisco Networking Academy courses. The program and approach prepared him for a technical job in the military. Now, at 20, he is out of debt, pursuing a role as a Warrant Officer in the U.S. Army, and funding his retirement. In short, he is in a ton better shape than I was at his age.
Changing the world for the better is complex and beyond the scope of even the largest and most influential companies. Companies can collectively make a massive difference by adapting efforts like the Cisco Networking Academy and lifting those currently disadvantaged to become successful members of tomorrow’s society.
The 4th Industrial Revolution Promises massive changes; if we don’t have a workforce ready for those changes, we’ll have massive unemployment and increasing potential for a revolt. Cisco Networking Academy and its partners (there are 700 partners) are working to ensure that a dire outcome isn’t going to happen. Maybe every other large company should follow Cisco’s example to avoid what will otherwise be a catastrophic outcome once the market shifts to the latest models.