Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Global networking company Cisco says it is committed to continue its investment in skills development and education in SA.

Valued at close to $200bn, Cisco is one of the world’s largest technology companies that manufactures and sells networking hardware, telecommunications equipment and other products.

The company recently partnered with the department of communications & digital technologies to invest $9.2m, as part of the effort to digitalise SA, over a three-year period.

In an interview, Fran Katsoudas, executive vice-president and chief people officer at Cisco in the US, said “the lifespan of a skill is getting shorter and shorter”.

Education and skills development has been a focus for Cisco globally for 25 years, she said, adding that the company has educated 9-million students so far, having invested about $3bn since establishing its Networking Academies.

For the region, Katsoudas said Cisco is committed to educating 1-million students across Africa by 2025, focusing on digital skills, creating jobs and increasing cyber security.

The spate of recent cyber attacks on the City of Johannesburg and banking sector has underlined the need for greater digital security for both public and private sector organisations.

Clayton Naidoo, the Cisco GM for Sub-Saharan Africa, said the company plans to build a cyber security operations centre alongside the department of communications & digital technologies because “we want to ensure that the security posture of the government is at least at an international standard. Cisco is the largest security company in the world, so it makes sense for us to have that collaboration with the government”.

One of the ways the company seeks to increase the level of cyber security is by training more people in the area.

Naidoo said Cisco has 138 academies in SA, training 16,000 students a year.

Edge Centres

As part of the investment, the company has developed Edge Centres, which function as incubators and shared working spaces for small technology businesses. The company operates two such centres, with plans to develop seven more, one for each province in SA.

“We’re taking small businesses in IT and we’re giving them a space in which they can collaborate with Cisco to design their solutions on Cisco platforms that they can sell to their customers,” said Naidoo.

The Silicon Valley-based business sees this investment in education as a way to develop a constant pipeline of talent for its own business, increase awareness in the market for its products and is now working on creating a talent pipeline for its partners through a platform called Talent Bridge, Katsoudas said.

The platform allows students to register an online profile and match those to job opportunities in Cisco’s partner network. For example, students can register their Cisco certification and fluency in French, the technology group’s partner companies update the platform with job opportunities, and the system matches candidates to those positions.

Katsoudas said the platform, first launched in the US two years ao, has helped many partners to save money that would otherwise have been spent on talent agents and recruiters to find the right skills.

On the local front, Naidoo said Talent Bridge has been online for about three months but has not yet gained traction in the market. He said the plan is to reach out to a network of 400 active partners in SA that typically hire Cisco certified professionals to update the system with positions, while encouraging their students to register their profiles.

gavazam@businesslive.co.za