Cisco’s Networking Academy programme is carving out careers routes in networking for ex-offenders in prison and after they have left.
The vendor has 10,000 academies worldwide, based in 167 countries, which are designed to prepare students for industry-recognised certifications and entry-level information and communication technology (ICT) careers.
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In the UK, NetAcademy mentor Kathryn Baddeley explained the academies are present in 38 prisons across the country. The courses are taught to prisoners as they would be in any other educational institute.
Of the 34,000 students in the UK, 2,500 are ex-offenders working to acquire skills in networking.
One of those ex-offenders is Sean Kelly, a student at Cisco’s Networking Academy, based at Newham Adult education Centre.
Kelly said he enrolled in the NetAcademy in 2009, while serving a sentence in Wandsworth prison. When he came out of prison he was transferred to Newham College.
Kelly explained that his course was free of charge in prison and is now funded through the charity Piano Project, while he continues his classes at the college in Newham.
“I was originally studying radio media and broadcasting, but it is such a tough industry to get into, as it is so popular. I then looked into a plastering course, but was advised not to take that route. Instead I was advised to look into the Networking Academies,” Kelly said.
"I am studying for my CCNA and eventually want to achieve my CCNP. The CCNP is a curriculum designed for students seeking career oriented, enterprise-level networking skills.
“Eventually I aim to become a network assistant. I have been told that I could start out here, but in years to come I could be in sales or even somewhere else. If I had taken the plastering route I would have been doing the same thing every day with not many chances of trying something new.
“I would have never considered a career in this industry before – I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on, let alone set up networks. The course really helped with combating boredom while I was inside, as it was something challenging to pass the time. Now on the outside it gives me something to focus on and work towards.”
Neil Crockett, managing director Cisco London 2012, said 70% of prisoners re-offend, in the UK, but the Networking Academies see re-offenders only in the single digits.
“The Olympics doesn’t just have to inspire sport,” said Crockett.
“Cisco is working with children around the Olympics in particular, as they are transfixed with it. We want to capture that inspiration and encourage them to consider career paths in science and technology.
"Working with children is a great time to encourage young females into the industry. There have been 272,000 women graduate from the Networking Academies worldwide,” he continued.
Crockett added that the Networking Academies are also present in the armed forces, working with military personnel on possible career routes after they have left the military.
There are 628 academies in the UK in schools, colleges, universities, prisons, football clubs, community training centres and charities.
Since the Networking Academies launched in 1997, 4.5 million students have studied with Cisco.
Cisco is to open a further 30 academies in east London as part of the vendor’s plan to contribute to the Olympics legacy after it has completed its infrastructure contract with the London 2012 Olympic Games.