Each year in June, the world celebrates World Refugee Day in honor of refugees and celebrating the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. The year’s theme – whoever, wherever, whenever, everyone has the right to seek safety – really resonates with me.

My grandmother was a refugee. In 1944, as the war waged in Europe and bombs dropped on the German city where she lived and where I’m from, my grandmother grabbed her two young children and boarded a train to the Netherlands. Upon arrival at the station, she paused, unsure what to do next. There were no services, no phones – who was she going to call anyway? She didn’t know anyone in the country and wasn’t sure how she would be received by the locals. As she stood there considering her next move, a local walked up and asked if she needed help. Upon hearing her story, that person offered the three of them refuge in their barn.

I first heard this story as a young man, and more than 20 years later, I was reminded again during the Syrian Refugee crisis, when more than a million refugees fled to Germany to escape the horrors happening in their country. And today, with the war in Ukraine, I again think of this story and reflect on how important it is to have empathy and understanding for each other.  Chances are at some point in our lives, any of us could be in a situation where we need help from other people.

Direct relief for refugees

Refugee relief efforts are often complicated by the fact that most international refugees are escaping a developing country only to settle in another with limited resources and capacity to offer aid. No matter how complex the humanitarian crisis, Cisco always steps up. To support the immediate needs of our customers, partners, and communities in Ukraine, Cisco took clear action with direct support through a combination of technical and humanitarian support. We have also implemented a variety of relief measures to help Cisco Partners in Ukraine protect their investments, earn rewards, and ease operations – and we continue to listen and act as those needs evolve.

The war for talent of the future

Cisco believes equally in sustained support over time to help other people beyond moments of crisis. Consider the major demographic shifts we’re seeing – aging populations, forced migration, a shift in the old-age to working-age ratio. What does this mean for the new war for talent? Attracting, training, developing, and retaining people of all ages from other countries and industries will factor into an organization’s future success. Because today’s refugees may very well be your future top talent. During the Syrian refugee crisis, we worked closely with the ReDi School of Digital Integration, to provide free tech education for refugees. With the support of the Networking Academy – our flagship skills-to-jobs program – along with some great Cisco people, we created training in a range of languages including Farsi. This training gave people help and hope while also bringing new, highly motivated talent into the market to support economic growth.

A bridge for talent

Addressing these challenges means connecting people, programs, and training to help people from all walks of life – whether a refugee, someone who doesn’t have money to invest in their career, or a person who simply hasn’t found the right job. Over the past 25 years, the Networking Academy has provided free, IT education to more than 15 million students, giving them in-demand industry skills and connecting with peers, mentors, and jobs. In fact, 95% of students say the program helped them obtain a job or educational opportunity, underscoring the programs’ success.

Cisco has built on and expanded essential training programs for people of all ages and backgrounds, from primary school educators to veterans to refugees. The Talent Bridge program addresses the tech skills gap, connecting Cisco and partner employers to qualified candidates, automatically and at no cost, dramatically simplifying the hiring and job search. We recently added new functionality, which allows refugees to ‘self-identify’, making it easier for employers who may want to be intentional in their hiring of refugees. If you’re a Cisco partner or work with NGOs and would like to get more involved, visit our Talent Bridge site. If you’re a refugee, I encourage you to set up your Talent Bridge profile to see your matched opportunities.

We continue to invest in education programs to help people and spark a new war for talent. If you want to make a difference in the world right now – if you want to support the industry to drive digitization and create a better future, get involved, support the people who need it, and create the talent of the future.


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Oliver Tuszik


Cisco EMEA