Cisco Networking Academy offers rookie cybersecurity classes

Cisco's cybersecurity track equips students for entry-level positions, including cybersecurity technician, junior cybersecurity analyst, and tier 1 help desk support role.

Cisco's Networking Academy has introduced a free, mobile-first cybersecurity program to attract minorities, low-wage workers and career changers. The educational pathway is meant to fill a worldwide cybersecurity worker shortage.

"What we're seeing that's happening currently in the industry is that more and more companies -- and I can tell you, Cisco is doing this as well – [are] hiring for skills and candidate potential, especially for some of our entry-level roles," said Laura Quintana, vice president and general manager of the Networking Academy.

Cisco's focus on hiring promising candidates comes as the hiring practices of the cybersecurity industry are changing. A recent survey of 11,779 security pros found that the emphasis on qualifications for new hires has shifted from training, certifications and degrees to relevant professional IT and cybersecurity experience, said the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)².

The study, conducted by the non-profit specializing in cybersecurity training, also found that companies with plans to target professionals from outside the field and train internally through rotating job assignments and mentorship initiatives were least likely to have worker shortages.

Finding workers is a significant problem for the cybersecurity industry. It currently faces a gap of 3.4 million people worldwide, according to (ISC)².

Cisco hopes to fill that gap by offering training for free.

"We know that the pandemic and automation have disproportionately impacted low-wage workers -- women, people of color. And there's an opportunity for us to tap into a very diverse talent to fill the needs that companies have -- that the nation has -- relative to cybersecurity roles," Quintana said.

Cisco offers the cybersecurity pathway through Skills for All, the Networking Academy's free online learning platform launched in July 2021. The latest track provides self-paced classes with an estimated 160-hour time commitment and hands-on labs to simulate real-life scenarios.

Completing the pathway and the final exam earns the student a Certiport IT Specialist Cybersecurity Certification. The skills learned qualifies people for entry-level positions, including cybersecurity technician, junior cybersecurity analyst, and tier 1 help desk support role, according to the pathway description page. Cisco offers the education track in English, Spanish and Portuguese, with plans to add more languages.

The Networking Academy releases the cybersecurity pathway as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. Other anniversary initiatives included a partnership with Experis, an IT professional resourcing company. Experis provides coaching and skills matching to help students find jobs in the U.S. and Mexico. The organization plans to go global eventually.

In July, Cisco announced plans to train 25 million people in digital and cybersecurity skills over the next 10 years. The company committed to preparing 200,000 students in the United States over the next three years.

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