Cisco Helps Bridge the UK Networking Skills Gap

SMEcentric Matches Skills and Profiles of Cisco Networking Academy Students to Job Opportunities

Cisco has combined forces with SMEcentric to help address the growing skills shortage in ICT via their Cisco Networking Academy Program. Since its inception in 1997, the Networking Academy program has helped more than 22,000 people in the United Kingdom gain networking skills that have been instrumental in improving their employability.

The joint initiative between the Networking Academy program and SMEcentric is designed to counteract the natural hesitation employers feel when taking on a graduate without industry experience. SMEcentric identifies the certified graduates available in a relevant local area from the database of the Networking Academy program and matches the skills and profiles to the needs of leading ICT and networking suppliers.

Jane Lewis, Networking Academy manager for Cisco UK and Ireland, explained: “Cisco has always been committed to growing a skilled workforce in the UK, as we believe that networking skills will be fundamental to the ongoing growth and success of the country. We’ve supported training for a wide range of people from incredibly diverse backgrounds through our Networking Academy program, and in linking up with SMEcentric, we’re now able to translate those skills into employment with a number of key industry players.”

Leading ICT vendors are offered a shortlist of suitable candidate profiles and have the choice of taking the academy graduates on a short-term contract basis or recruiting them as permanent members of staff. SMEcentric also places graduates on a “try before you buy” basis to allow organizations to assess the graduates’ full value and potential.

Peter Turner, managing director at Cisilion, a Cisco Gold Certified Partner, commented: “It is so hard to find people with the right level of skill we need to maintain and grow our business. The graduates we have taken on through SMEcentric are extremely capable and talented individuals. We’re confident that they have the right skills and aptitudes to add value to our business.”

“Small and medium-sized enterprises represent the bulk of the UK economy, but it’s hard for them to find the kind of skilled staff they need. By working with the Cisco Networking Academy Program to place students in the workforce, we’re helping cross the divide between learned skills and skills used in the workplace,” said Stephen Burns, director, SMEcentric. “We are extremely impressed with the caliber of the graduates coming out of the Network Academy program. Cisco can be very proud of the work it is doing to both address the networking skills shortage and help people gain employment within the industry.”

Companies already engaged in the initiative include Cisilion, BT iNet, CAE, Wstore, Gardiner Security, Lanz and Esscom, each of whom has taken on Networking Academy students in the past three months. Through the relationship with SMEcentric, Networking Academy graduates are given the opportunity to gain real experience in the workplace while still studying for further qualifications. Currently some 58 students have benefited from the scheme.

Ben Pammenter, education business manager at BT iNet, commented: “Through SMEcentric we have access to a pool of highly talented graduates. What’s more, we can be confident in the knowledge that each one of them has real, hands-on experience in a work environment. SMEcentric is an invaluable initiative for us, especially given the current UK IT skills shortage.”

Richard Green, a Networking Academy graduate currently working at BT iNet as a systems engineer, commented: “The Cisco Networking Academy Program gave me a real head-start on a career in IT. It’s given me a profession, and through SMEcentric, the chance to get hands-on experience too.”

In a survey commissioned by Cisco in 2005, IDC revealed that the UK would face a shortage of some 39,500 people with the necessary skills to deploy and support advanced technologies by 2008, if no action were taken.