George Ward, a Cisco Senior Engineer, developed training for teachers and staff for maintenance of school networks. He traveled around the country conducting his training sessions and discovered that although schools were being wired and connected to the Internet, they lacked financial and human resources to manage and maintain networks. He felt that it was difficult to expect instructors teaching a course to rely on networks if they did not have a way to support them.
George started training the students at these institutions in school-network maintenance. The success of student seminars led to requests from participating schools across the United States for Cisco to develop a curriculum that could be integrated into an instructor-led class as an elective course taught in a semester format. Cisco management realized that a curriculum could best be delivered across multiple sites using Internet learning.
The formalized curriculum and support activities evolved into the Cisco Networking Academy Program. The program was launched in October 1997, with 64 academies in 7 U.S. states. This program was created to support schools and academic institutions that did not have IT or networking support centers and to teach students how to design, build, and maintain computer networks at their schools. Through Internet learning, the project could be scaled, if the demand warranted, without the overhead of travel and time commitments.
In just seven years, the program (a partnership between corporate, government, and individuals) demonstrated how the Internet can transform education by leveraging an Internet learning model that works. Through a combination of e-communication, e-training, and e-assessment tools, the Academy delivers its curriculum to countries around the world. The program also supports nearly 20,000 instructors through an e-learning instructor-readiness program. Through the Cisco Networking Academy Program, more than 6000 educational institutions around the world have implemented e-learning.
With more than 100,000 graduates already in the field with an estimated 50 percent employed in the industry, the Networking Academy has created a valuable talent pool for employers to tap into for recruitment. The remaining 50 percent choose to pursue further education or other careers. Wherever the networking industry experiences a labor shortage around the globe, the program delivers a steady flow of qualified, certified candidates.