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Cisco Networking Academy Empowers the Disabled in Sri Lanka

This post was written by guest blogger Emma Reid, marketing manager for Cisco’s Social Innovation Group, Asia-Pacific region.

emreidIn 2001, the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) launched the Network on Disability, a program designed to connect Sri Lanka’s disabled community to meaningful jobs. The EFC’s ICT Training Center, which launched in 2009 with the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO), has empowered more than 160 disabled people with the IT and language skills training they’ll need to thrive in a digital world. The EFC’s objective is to develop the employability skills of people with diverse disabilities in Sri Lanka by embracing the vision of “productive employment through social harmony.”

In 2014, the training center achieved status as a Cisco Networking Academy. “This is a milestone of the ICT Training Center, as it is the only center in Sri Lanka which trains people with diverse disabilities in Cisco courses,” said Manique Gunaratne, Head of the ICT Training Centre. This year, EFC started offering Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) courses to students with disabilities. For the CCNA course, nine men and women with disabilities have been selected. Among them are three visually impaired participants, three hearing impaired participants, and three with physical disabilities. On October 23, the Commercial Bank donated millions worth of Cisco equipment to be used for the courses. Gunaratne, herself, lost her sight 15 years ago due to retinitispigmentosa, a disease for which no cure has been found.

“Cisco’s own research indicates that certified professionals often earn as much as 10% more than peers without Cisco credentials working in similar routing and networking jobs.”

Gunaratne was recruited as a role model to the Network on Disability in 2001 as the first employee with a disability. Trained both locally and internationally to teach, promote, and develop IT skills for individuals with disabilities, Gunaratne has been nationally and internationally recognized. In addition to winning a Gold Medal at the Assembly for Women with Disabilities in Seoul, South Korea in 2011, she also received several coveted national awards in 2007, including the Keerthi Sri Lankabhimani Desha Bandu Award, the Zonta Woman Achiever, and Most Inspirational Woman on Special Skills of the Year. Gunaratne’s commitment to the betterment of the visually impaired in Sri Lanka is exemplary.

The training center is fully equipped with more than 50 devices specially designed for individuals with disabilities as part of a collaboration with Curtin University of Technology in Australia and SLIIT (Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology) Malabe. The programs are also recognized by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) and within the EFC membership, which consists of 620 companies.

“The prime objective of the program is to improve the computer knowledge and networking skills of our students,” said Gunaratne. “Moreover, it aims to improve the employability of the trainees and create a group of trainers for future training needs.”

Find out how you can hire Networking Academy talent to grow your business.

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A Morning of Inspiration with Cisco Networking Academy Students

This blog was originally published on Cisco’s internal employee website.

“Follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid. Hold your heads high!”


These were the words shared by Alison Gleeson, Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Americas Sales and Jordi Botifoll, Cisco’s President of the Latin America Theater, to students at a recent Cisco Networking Academy event during Cisco Live! Cancun.

The 30 students came from Mexico’s Yucatan and Quintana Roo area. They come from primarily underprivileged neighborhoods, but these young men and women are trying to make a better life for themselves and their families by pursuing careers in technology.

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Behind the Scenes with the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team

Earlier this year, Cisco senior system engineer Josh Kittle attended Cisco Live in San Diego and had his first encounter with the Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team – a group of students who are given the chance to gain real-world experience setting up massive networks at high-profile events like Cisco Live and the NBA All-Star Game.

The Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team at Cisco Live US 2015 in San Diego, California

The Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team at Cisco Live US 2015 in San Diego, California

Josh is a former Cisco Networking Academy instructor,  one of almost 9,500 who have taught 5.5 million students IT skills worldwide since 1997. The Networking Academy curriculum is licensed free of charge to learning institutions and is Cisco’s largest and longest-running Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. Our courses provide in-depth technology training in the latest networking, security, and cloud technologies, preparing students for in-demand jobs and globally recognized certification.

Josh described the Dream Team as a way for Networking Academy students to gain “real-world experience at the logistics and execution of network design, installation, and support – at a hyper-accelerated pace.”

Read Josh’s full blog post here and learn how you can hire Networking Academy talent for your company.

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Cisco Networking Academy Dream Team

Each year more than 160,000 students enroll in the Cisco Networking Academy in North America alone. As a former academy instructor myself, and now a freelance technical trainer, I’m extremely interested in mentoring and learning opportunities that become available for up and coming network engineers, and this year something ‘new’ caught my attention. I was out in San Diego this summer at Cisco Live 2015, and while engaged in the social media aspect of the event, I noticed a new hash tag #CLDreamTeam. What was this? The Dream Team? Never heard of it. So I started to dig, and what I’ve learned is fascinating! Read More »

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Cisco Celebrates Heroes on Veterans Day

Today in the United States is Veterans Day, where we give thanks to the millions of veterans who have served our country in wartime and peace. Originally called Armistice Day in honor of the cessation of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in World War 1 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November 1918, Congress changed the name to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor American veterans of all wars.


In June 2011, Cisco started a corporate veterans program focused on helping veterans find career jobs and establishing career training resources. The veterans program augments Cisco’s successful employee organization, the Veterans Enablement and Troop Support Employee Resource Organization (Vets ERO). The Vets ERO consists of eight chapters and supports service members, active and retired, here and abroad, by creating greater awareness of veteran causes and helping veterans connect in our workplace and their local community. Two key activities of the Vets ERO are their annual mid-November Veterans Career Technology Day  and mentoring.

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