Cisco helps foster next generation of IT experts

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2008, 12:00am
 

Information communication technology (ICT) has become an important subject for students, and Cisco (HK) is introducing ICT to primary and secondary schools, and tertiary education institutions in Hong Kong and Macau as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme.

'When education and the internet are put together they make a powerful impact on society,' said Cisco's managing director, Hong Kong, Macau and South China, Charleston Sin Chiu-shun.

The main objectives of Cisco's CSR programme are to nurture the next generation of IT specialists for Hong Kong and Macau and to empower young people with IT knowledge and skills so that they can e-learn effectively. Cisco has divided its CSR initiatives into two broad categories: IT education, which is the teaching of essential IT skills and networking technology; and IT in education which encourages the education sector to adopt the latest IT equipment and skills to make teaching and learning more effective and fun.

'Students equipped with ICT are able to use the internet for self-learning and benefit through the multimedia [available online],' Dr Sin said.

The Cisco Networking Academy (CNA), which was founded in the United States in 1997 and introduced to Hong Kong the next year, fulfils the goals of IT education and IT in education. The programme features regularly updated web-based curricula with rich multimedia content. Instructors trained by Cisco lead classes with hands-on practical lab sessions. Students are required to take tests and exams, and are awarded industry-recognised certificates on successful completion of the course.

The company had organised CNA courses in collaboration with 35 educational institutions in Hong Kong and Macau and more than 3,000 people had graduated in the past 10 years, Dr Sin said. 'We have incorporated CNA courses on associate and professional levels into the IT programmes offered by tertiary educational institutions in Hong Kong.'

Apart from nurturing IT professionals, the CNA programme has evolved to help promote the adoption of networking technology in education. Cisco has organised training based on the CNA curricula for 300 Form Four and Form Five school teachers. The teacher training course will end in August. 'If their schools are interested in offering CNA courses to students, they can approach us for support ... they can start teaching it in the upcoming academic year in September,' Dr Sin said.

The Cisco Night School equips individuals with essential networking technical knowledge and skills. It is a six-month course that emphasises real-life applications and classes are taught by Cisco's engineers who volunteer to help cultivate the next generation of IT specialists.

'IT specialists are in short supply in Hong Kong ... According to a Cisco-commissioned research project conducted in 2006, the shortage of IT professionals in Hong Kong will increase from 2,000 in 2006 to 2,800 in 2009,' Dr Sin said.

The Youth Ambassador Programme is another innovative CSR initiative launched by Cisco early last year. Cisco has recruited 30 ambassadors from the CNA to help promote IT adoption through schools and community centres and help bridge the IT skills gap among youth in Hong Kong and Macau. The ambassadors gained real-life experience in putting their IT knowledge and theories into practice by helping build and test the network at inter-school IT competition Joint-School Wireless Mathematics Trail 2007 organised by Hong Kong's Education and Manpower Bureau last July.

'The Youth Ambassador Programme provides the connected youth of Hong Kong and Macau with great opportunities to collaborate and be creative contributors to the development of the internet,' Dr Sin said.

CNA graduate Wong Mei-ching said he had learnt many essential IT skills through the programme. Mr Wong is a full-time telecommunications and networking student at the Tsing Yi Institute of Vocational Education. He plans to enrol in an undergraduate degree programme for information engineering at City University.

As a Cisco Youth Ambassador, Mr Wong devotes his spare time to helping organise IT learning activities for underprivileged children in collaboration with the Caritas Youth & Community Service Centre in Tuen Mun. He said he had benefited from the experience. 'I have honed my skills in problem-solving and communications through interaction with the management of schools and Cisco's staff,' he said.

There is a corporate social responsibility article for the HR Trends column on the last Saturday of each month

Way forward

Cisco promotes IT education and IT in education as part of its CSR programme

The Cisco Networking Academy has trained more than 3,000 IT professionals in Hong Kong and Macau since 1998

Cisco Youth Ambassadors help bridge the IT gap in Hong Kong and Macau

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