Store shelves are crammed with lunchboxes: Pokemon and Paw Patrol, Spirit and mermaids, and superheroes of every stripe. While the designs available have changed over time—my Josie and the Pussycats lunchbox definitely lacked bento-style compartments—the reason for their existence has not. It’s all about helping students get ready for what comes next: life, work, and engagement in society.

The options and programs available for schools and educators to help students on their way are myriad, and considering these three questions can give you more ideas to add to your toolkit.

1. When does career readiness begin?

When parents walk their kindergartner to the bus stop for the first time, they’re probably not thinking about building the workforce of the future. But educators know that learners begin to form soft, “human” skills early. An exciting new program—Global Problem Solvers: The Series—can help students as young as those in middle school develop important skills in problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration as it inspires them to make a difference in the world.

Do the skills honed through a program like GPS: The Series matter? You bet! The National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2018 surveyed employers to identify the attributes most important in new hires. Topping the list: problem-solving skills (82.9%), ability to work in a team (82.9%), and communication skills (80.3%).

2. Is there really a “skills gap”? What about expanding students’ technical skills?

Ninety percent of organizations report a shortage of potential new hires with technical skills; nearly 800 thousand technology-related jobs are available in the U.S. alone. (Read the infographic.) A combination of soft skills and strong capabilities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) can open doors for many.

For more than 20 years, Cisco Networking Academy has helped 9.5 million students in 180 countries learn how to design, build, manage, and secure computer networks, supporting the educational needs of local communities and preparing students for careers that are in worldwide demand.

Does your school host a Network Academy? If not, consider joining the more than 22,000 professors, teachers and counselors who use the free Networking Academy curriculum to inspire and motivate students worldwide. Or, check out opportunities to foster learning online.

3. What about increasing talent in cybersecurity?

In Cisco’s 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report, more than half of all respondents (55 percent) to the Security Capabilities Benchmark Study noted that they had experienced at least one public security breach in the past year. The growing rate of cyber threats—from targeted attacks, ransomware, the proliferation of smart devices, and more—is increasing the demand for cybersecurity professionals.

The median number of cybersecurity personnel in all industries has increased since 2015—from 25 to 40 in 2017—and most organizations report that they intend to hire more resources for their security teams. Targeted Cisco Networking Academy programs are training the next generation of cyber superheroes.

Using every opportunity for readiness

All schools, colleges, and universities play an essential role in educating the workforce of the future. Some expand on traditional programs with offerings like Global Problem Solvers: The Series or Cisco Networking Academy, while others deliver a benefit through the technology they use in teaching and learning every day. Jerry Sheehan, the CIO at Montana State University (MSU), calls it an “unexpected ripple effect.” Many students at MSU use “tools in their coursework [including Cisco Webex and Webex Teams] that they’ll use when they move into the work environment. The ‘ripple’ is that students’ experiences with Webex will go with them beyond the education environment into their professional lives.”

You can see the “ripple” across the country:

To see more stories like these and learn more about the solutions that prepare students for the world of work, visit cisco.com/go/education.



Donna Eason

Global Customer Marketing Writer