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Networking Academy Competition Highlights Initiatives to Reduce IT Skills Shortage


Teams of talented students are converging on western Sydney this week to tackle complex networking problems under a program sponsored by Cisco® to reduce Australia’s IT skills shortage.

Over three hours on Wednesday, 6 June, at the Lidcombe Technical and Further Education (TAFE) campus, teams of four students each from five Cisco Networking Academy Program institutions in New South Wales will compete to resolve practical networking scenarios devised by technicians from Cisco Technical Services.

The teams, from Macquarie Fields TAFE, Meadowbank TAFE, Petersham TAFE, Lidcombe TAFE and Blacktown TAFE, contain final-semester students in Networking Academy program courses. The Networking Academy program, which requires 280 hours of practical learning, provides students with the skills to design, build and maintain Internet Protocol networks. Launched in October 1997 with 64 educational institutions in seven U.S. states, the Networking Academy program has spread to more than 150 countries. Since its inception, more than 1.6 million students have enrolled in some 10,000 Networking Academy curricula in high schools, technical schools, colleges, universities, and community-based organisations. More than 240 institutions in Australia and New Zealand offer these courses.

Scenarios presented to competing students simulate real-life problems faced by many networking engineers. Students will be tested on their ability to apply debugging and problem-solving methodologies.

Kevin Bloch, Cisco director of operations, Australia and New Zealand, said, “We are very proud to be helping provide the skills for careers in IP networking, which is rapidly becoming the basis for all systems of information communication, including video, voice and data.”

The program is one of several initiatives run by Cisco to address the skills crisis affecting the Asia-Pacific region in general and Australia in particular. According to a recent International Data Corp. survey sponsored by Cisco, the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, is expected to suffer a shortfall of 221,000 people with advanced skills in wireless technologies, security and IP telephony by 2009. This figure is up from 113,000 last year. IDC forecasts the total network professional shortfall to increase to 396,000 in 2009, up from 210,000 last year. In Australia, the deficit in the number of skilled high-tech professionals was 5,600 in 2006 and is forecast by IDC to increase to 7,100 by 2009.


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