Later this week, four dozen high-school students will gather in an auditorium in North San Jose.  They will stand before a panel of judges, not to sing the latest pop song for The Voice or American Idol, but to blow judges away with their proposals for the next big thing in technology, as part of Cisco’s STEM Mentoring Day of Action.

After spending time with engineer mentors and seeing cutting-edge technologies, the students will be divided into small teams.  Their task:  develop an innovative proposal for the Internet of Everything, the next wave of the Internet, which is the connection of people, processes, data and things to the Internet.

This event is not a one-time occasion.  It’s part of Cisco’s enduring commitment to preparing the next generation for careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — STEM.  This week, nearly 200 students will attend STEM mentoring events at three Cisco campuses in San Jose; Richardson, Texas; and Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The goal at all three facilities is the same – to ignite a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math among students. You see, something amazing happens when you put technology in the hands of young people. It opens their eyes to the incredible possibilities that a career in high-tech can offer.

Cisco’s commitment in this area goes back nearly two decades with the Cisco Networking Academy, which has taught over 5 million students around the world the fundamentals of how networks work and providing them the opportunity to become certified, the key to obtaining a good paying job in this field.

This commitment extends to classrooms, where we’re working with schools and the Federal Government to see that every K-12 classroom in America has high-speed Wi-Fi over the next five years.  Cisco is also providing funding for innovative programs – like the MIND Research Institute – which is fundamentally changing how math is being taught in underserved communities from coast to coast.  And their results have been nothing short of amazing –with students doubling and tripping their math proficiency scores in a few short years.

And our commitment extends to STEM mentoring programs for students of all backgrounds, especially for girls and students from underserved communities.

Cisco is a founding partner of US2020, an initiative inspired by the White House, to scale mentoring programs across the country.  Cisco has pledged that 20% percent of our US workforce will volunteer in STEM 20 hours a year by 2020.  An ambitious commitment, yes, but one that we think is critically important.

Current estimates show that the U.S. faces a major talent gap.  Unless something is done, there will be an estimated 1.2 million jobs in STEM fields that won’t be filled.

That’s where mentoring programs like Cisco’s inaugural STEM Day of Action come in, where we’re partnering with incredible non-profit organizations and school communities like Junior Achievement and the Plano ISD STEM Academy.

In addition to the IoE innovation challenge described above, students will participate in speed mentoring, see some of our latest video and collaboration technologies, build their own Ethernet cables, and receive career advice from local executives who are looking to hire the next generation of skill sets and competencies.

The response that we get from the students at events like these is overwhelmingly positive.  They want to learn more, and do more, with technology.  When they see the possibilities, it becomes real.

Over the coming weeks, months and years, Cisco will continue to fulfill our commitments in STEM.  We see the challenge facing our nation, and we’ve embraced it.  There’s no excuse.  It’s up to all of us to find the time in our busy days to help out students, and open the door of opportunity.  Once that door is open, it remains open for all time.


Blair Christie

Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer