- Cisco's Networking Academy is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, having partnered with K-12 schools and other learning institutions in 180 countries to equip millions of students with valuable IT job skills, according to EdTech: Focus on K-12.
- In Missouri alone, the networking hardware company has spent over $13 million working with at least 28,000 students in 44 programs, and the educators involved in these partnerships work with the company not just in teaching the material, but also developing it.
- The ongoing success of such programs comes as demand explodes for workers with those technological skills in fields like healthcare, finance and manufacturing.
The economy is in a state of transition, with many of the manufacturing, retail and other jobs that high school graduates in particular once vied for now being disrupted by automation and artificial intelligence. Those employers now need graduates who know how to maintain and operate that technology, and new fields are also growing to take the place of these jobs. Coding, for example, has been eyed as a new blue-collar frontier of sorts.
As such, the public education system is having to rethink its model, which has long been focused on producing high school graduates who were prepared for jobs on assembly lines or in cubicles if they weren't headed off to college. But along with an expanded set of technical skills, employers are also asking for more experience with soft skills like critical and creative thinking, communication and collaboration. This has bred a deeper focus on social-emotional learning, as well as on rethinking classroom design to accommodate those demands.
Additionally, career and technical education (CTE) is now being viewed in a new light as an equitable alternative to the pursuit of a four-year degree if students aren't inclined to go to college. A push for free community college in several states over the past few years could boost those efforts, effectively creating what amounts to a K-14 system where students not going off to a traditional four-year institution have no reason not to stick around for a few more years for an associate-level education. Though that scenario would leave plenty of questions for higher education to grapple with.
In the meantime, K-12 has a number of technological CTE partnership options via for-profit and non-profit organizations, as illustrated by the Cisco Networking Academy.