Cisco has teamed up with several other technology companies to broaden the curriculum in its local Cisco Networking Academies. A total of four programmes will be made available to the 67 academies in Hong Kong and Macau: fundamentals of Unix and fundamentals of Java programming sponsored by Sun Microsystems, fundamentals of voice and data cabling sponsored by network equipment firm Panduit, and two introductory courses on information technology by Hewlett-Packard. 'The launching of the programme is a milestone for the Cisco Networking Academy in Hong Kong,' said Errol Chan, Cisco's regional manager for enterprise. 'Despite the economic downturn, there is still high demand for IT professionals.' According to Rita Sully, programme manager of Cisco Asia-Pacific for sponsored curriculum, the three firms have offered resources, equipment and technical help as part of their sponsorship. The Cisco Networking Academy programme is a non-profit partnership between Cisco, business, government and education organisations. The Web-based programmes combine an e-learning model with classroom sessions led by instructors. There are more than 9,000 academies in 140 countries worldwide and 900 in 25 Asia-Pacific regions. About 260,000 students have graduated from the academies, with 40,000 coming from Asia since the programme was launched in 1997. The sponsored programme started in the United States last year. Hong Kong is the first region to introduce the programme in the Asia-Pacific region. The new courses will be offered in the School of Professional and Continuing Education (Space) at the University of Hong Kong. Teachers at local academies are required to take the courses before they offer the programmes in their institutions. Tony Lam, Sun's industry sales director for academic and research in Greater China, said the Java programming language would continue to grow in importance as a common language joining computing and networking. 'There are about 2.5 million Java programmers around the globe,' said Mr Lam. 'The demand for Java knowledge is still surging. In Hong Kong, we will see Java extensively used in writing telecommunication programmes in future 3G [third-generation] and other wireless developments.'