The dawn of any new year is met with optimism, fanfare, and celebration. With our world under pressure from the global pandemic and social unrest, the arrival of 2021 holds greater importance and potential for a fresh start and new hope for so many of us.

This collective resolve will serve us well as we tackle the challenges ahead. Here, at Cisco Networking Academy, we’re acutely aware of the extraordinary impact the pandemic has had on the global economy and the billions of people whose lives have been upended. Across the retail, hospitality, and travel sectors especially, many of the hourly workers who work in these services industries have shouldered the greatest impact. And as humanity has hunkered down, those working in other industries disproportionally effected by the pandemic, like the auto and construction industries, are in jeopardy. Life, work, and livelihoods will be dramatically different before and after the pandemic.

Truth be told, the pandemic has accelerated market dynamics that we know were already in play. Digital transformation, led by increasing reliance on automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, is shaping and impacting today’s workers and ushering in new requirements for our current and future workforce. And workers worldwide are competing for fewer jobs and tighter wages.

With newfound clarity, we see a silver lining: we see a clear path to seize this moment in time to pivot to new ways of working and learning. The ability to leverage technology to bridge abilities, distance, and resources reduces friction and lowers the barrier of entry for motivated individuals to re-skill and participate in the new economy – one that allows every person to learn and work from anywhere and contribute in profound ways.

In our Cisco 2020 Corporate Social Responsibility Impact Report, we detail the full breadth of our global impact and our commitment to powering an inclusive future for all. As the leader of Networking Academy, I am exceptionally proud of our contribution. Networking Academy, in combination with our social impact grants and signature programs, aims to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025. During this past year, 2.3 million students participated in Cisco Networking Academy, which exceeded our company goal of 2 million, bringing our total since inception in 1997 to 12.6 million students.

Cisco Networking Academy is the world’s largest and longest-running corporate social responsibility education program, training 12.6 million people in digital skills over 23 years in 180 countries.

The numbers are meaningful, but the individual stories of impact reinforce the importance in investing and enabling our future workforce. Consider Liz Canfield, a married mom of three in the United States. She was on a college path years ago, but life obligations interrupted her plans.

Liz Canfield Cisco Networking Academy student and mother of three
Liz Canfield, Cisco Networking Academy student and mother of three

She earned a job as a personal secretary in the public sector and worked her way up to an analyst position. Ultimately, she took a private sector job, but after an economic downturn, she found herself without a job, three kids in college, and limited prospects. She turned to Cisco Networking Academy to enroll in cybersecurity and network administration courses. Today, she’s on a path to graduation and bright prospects for a rewarding career in IT.

At Cisco, we also measure our inclusive future impact by empowering all students with career opportunities – including students with disabilities. About 15 percent of the world’s population experience a disability, and the rates of disability are increasing. Last year, we reached over 56,000 students with disabilities worldwide, including through 12 specialized programs.

Cisco Networking Academy Student at Bredon School
Lucas Kennedy, Cisco Networking Academy alumnus from Bredon School

Lucas Kennedy, who has autism, is a student at Bredon School in the United Kingdom. He started his Cisco Networking Academy journey at age 14. Today, he is a networking technician at Efar. When he started work, a stuttering challenge prohibited him from confidently having a conversation. He points to Networking Academy for encouraging him to seek answers and having the courage to overcome challenges.

Liz and Lucas are shining examples of what can happen when people are provided equitable access to knowledge, skills, and resources to support themselves and their families. Whether students join Cisco Networking Academy via a community college, a library system, or through a self-paced class – we’re proud to play a role in creating a bridge to a new economy,  skilling for the future of work, and creating an inclusive future for all.



Laura Quintana

Vice President and General Manager

Cisco Networking Academy