In today’s world, safety of people and things will be rooted in digital trust, with cybersecurity and data privacy at the core. Currently, the demand for cybersecurity talent is outpacing supply, and this is a problem in multiple new areas of technology where the landscape is changing swiftly. According to NASSCOM, demand for cybersecurity talent is expected to increase fivefold over the next four years in India. We will need 1 million people to join the cybersecurity domain; with the changing spectrum of industries, we need nothing less than a skilling revolution to fulfill India’s digital talent need.

In an effort to make skilling a national priority and transform India into a digital talent hub, Cisco, AICTE, and NASSCOM FutureSkills PRIME launched the Virtual Internship Program (VIP) to provide 20,000 online internships opportunities in cybersecurity through Cisco Networking Academy.

Each year, approximately 1.2 million students look for a meaningful internship opportunity with one of India’s 3,000 engineering institutions. But there aren’t enough internships for everyone. Furthermore, with our world under pressure from the global pandemic and social unrest, this gap has widened.

Bridging the gap

Cisco Networking Academy offers the Virtual Internship Program to second- and third-year engineering students to bridge the gap between industry and academia. This is the first time in India where the virtual internship model is being piloted at scale in a collaboration between industry and government for 20,000 students. Virtual internships make it possible to offer experiential learning opportunities to more students.

This program redefines experiential learning gained during an internship. In a conventional internship model, students gain knowledge and skills and then work on a problem statement to gain hands-on experience with the guidance of an industry professional.

The VIP is an attempt to virtualize the traditional internship model and allow scalability during this challenging climate. In the current pilot:

  • Students gained cybersecurity knowledge and skills by completing Cisco Networking Academy courses like Introduction of Cybersecurity and Cybersecurity Essentials.
  • Next, students learned to use the powerful network simulation tool – Packet Tracer.
  • After completing the courses, industry experts and Cisco leaders covered topics from enabling a global skillset to careers in cybersecurity.
  • Accredited Networking Academy instructors trained faculty members from participating institutions to act as local mentors.
  • With the guidance of the local mentor at the institution, shortlisted students worked on a project to design a secure network for their institution.

Helping students learn the significance of security

Kohila, an instructor at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham who helped to coordinate more than 35 academies with more than 3,800 students for the VIP shared, “This internship paved the way for understanding the significance of security to the students. They not only completed the theoretical exam, they completed some lab activities, Packet Tracer activities, then finally a project in Packet Tracer along with a presentation explaining their thoughts regarding securing their campus network.”

A quote graphic of a student who participated in the India Virtual Internship Program (VIP)

The government and the higher education community of India enthusiastically supported this program. We received 26,051 applications from 31 states and union territories, out of which 19,830 students were shortlisted for the program, and 12,835 students successfully completed the program. During the live broadcast industry session, 22,000 students and instructors participated, with approximately 7,500+ engaging in our live polls and Q&A sessions.

The Cisco India team was delighted with the results of this collaborative effort.  The Cisco Networking Academy team wishes to thank Cisco Secure, India Sales, Architecture Sales, Government Affairs, Marketing and Communications, CX, and University Recruiting.  Working alongside our Networking Academy partners – Amrita, Amity, EduSkills, NIIT Foundation, ICT Academy, TASK and NTTF – the Cisco teams delivered an outstanding program for our India interns.

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Marcella O'Shea

Regional Manager - APJ

Corporate Affairs