Naresh Wadhwa, President & Country Manager, Cisco India & SAARC
Peter Drucker, the late management visionary, invented the term knowledge worker in 1970. With the pervasive hypergrowth environment evident everywhere today, there is an increasing need for an academically capable workforce, as the most important role in business (according to Drucker's predictions) would be "to make knowledge more productive." Hence, aiding in the creation and empowerment of Indian knowledge workers is a vital focus for us at Cisco today.
Further, this scenario becomes more complex given the talent shortage we are likely to face. According to NASSCOM, each year over 3 million graduates and post-graduates are added to the Indian workforce. However, of these only 25 percent of technical graduates and 10-15 percent of other graduates are considered employable by the rapidly growing IT and ITES segments. Thus, what we have today is a growing skills gap reflecting the slim availability of high-quality college education in India and the galloping pace of the country's service-driven economy, which is growing faster than most countries in the world.
There are many remarkable exemplars of public private participation initiatives, industry-academia programs and government interventions taking place today to address this skills gap and ensure a continued pipeline of talent. For Cisco, our social investment strategy focuses on empowering individuals and transforming communities through networking. We advance a broad range of economic, educational, and social initiatives worldwide by making use of our market strength, industry experience, and business acumen. We collaborate with a wide variety of organizations, including NGOs and universities.
A recent Cisco commissioned study with IDC revealed that there will be a shortage of 137,200 networking professionals in India alone by 2009. It is further estimated that this gap is growing at a compounded annual growth of 39 percent. With networking forming the backbone of a company's IT needs, this gap in skilled networking professionals could arrest the growing market and threaten India's economic growth plans. Cisco has been working toward the development of networking talent in many ways:
National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) is a Public Social Private Partnership between Cisco and NIOS that offers Cisco Networking AcademyÒ Program in 10 accredited vocational institutes to begin with across the country, including in northeast India. Each of these institutes, called a Cisco Local Academy, will provide PC hardware and networking information technology (IT) essentials to students. Cisco NetAcad focuses on teaching students how to design, build and maintain computer networks and prepares students for the 21st-century workplace while serving as a valuable model for online learning. This program is unique in many ways including its vocational focus, job-oriented curriculum, and inclusive nature (we offer this course to everyone including school drop-outs, mid-career professionals, etc). Cisco believes that working in conjunction with the Indian government gives this partnership great reach and potential. NIOS is part of the Ministry of HRD and plans to scale this program to over 100 accredited vocational institutes spread across the country.
The Networking Academy is now active in over 166 countries around the world - an initiative that blends classroom instruction with online curricula, hands-on lab exercises, realistic network simulations, and Internet-based assessment tool to prepare students for entry-level IT career opportunities, continuing education, and globally recognized certifications. In India, there are over 165 Cisco Academies (across 26 states & union territories) with 8,550+ student currently enrolled in the program and 5150+ professionals have already graduated in CCNA. Today there are close to 70,000 Cisco Certified professionals in India. In addition to imparting IT knowledge and networking skills, NetAcad also aims to bridge the 'digital divide' as it takes technical education to rural India including technologically backward states like Kashmir, Orissa and Tripura.
The Rajasthan Education Initiative in India's largest state seeks to improve social and economic conditions by developing IT skills in what is a predominantly agrarian region. Targeted at girls, rural children, urban under-privileged children, and children with special needs, the initiative aims to accelerate IT education in 32 government District Computer Education Centres (DCEC) across Rajasthan.
Corporate social responsibility is a core Cisco value. We believe our social investments contribute to our long-term value as a business while also helping to build a stronger, healthier global community. India is an emerging country and will experience a shift towards services and more and more knowledge workers will be needed. Partnership such as the Cisco - NIOS one are aimed at building human capacity to assist India in the long run, to maintain our competitive edge, and continue to be the innovative knowledge hub of the world.