But thanks to a partnership among K-12 education, higher education and one of the world’s leading corporations -– Cisco Systems –- the mountains of West Virginia are quickly becoming a haven for high tech training.
“West Virginia high school students and adults now have the opportunity to receive state-of-the-art training for great-paying jobs in the IT (information technology) field,” explained State Superintendent Dr. David Stewart. “Through Cisco Networking Academies, West Virginia students and adults are being prepared for jobs in this flourishing field.”
The Cisco Networking Academy is a comprehensive, eight semester curriculum that uses a combination of web-based, instructor-led learning and hands on labs to teach high school students and adults networking and IT. Through this program, students learn how to design, build and maintain computer networks.
“Coordinated through West Virginia University, seven regional Cisco Networking Academies located throughout the state provide high school students and adults with access to training that will prepare them for jobs that are in demand in West Virginia, the United States and around the world,” Dr. Stewart noted. “These regional academies support 34 local academies located in West Virginia K-12 and vocational schools. West Virginia University is one of three Cisco Academies for teachers on the East Coast.”
West Virginia is also one of only a few states developing a seamless transition from high school to the workforce or to a four-year college program. Over 400 high school students in West Virginia are currently participating in the Cisco Networking Academy Program.
After four semesters of work, high school students participating in the program will have the skills and knowledge to pass the Cisco Certified Network Associates (CCNA) certification exam. Students who successfully complete the program are ready to begin working in the IT field with an estimated starting salary of $35,000 to $45,000 annually.
Upon completion of the initial four semesters of work, students can then continue their studies four additional semesters to become a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), which also requires examinations.
“Around the world, industry cannot recruit enough IT professionals,” Dr. Stewart said. “We’re merely providing training for those jobs that are in demand now and will be in demand for the foreseeable future. Students who complete these programs will have the certifications to prove that they have the knowledge to compete in the IT field.”
According to the State Superintendent, the West Virginia Department of Education is exploring the potential of developing additional partnerships to provide students with the training necessary to compete for high tech jobs.
Last spring, the West Virginia Board of Education recognized the first two students and teacher in the Mountain State to receive certification for Microsoft Office proficiency. The Microsoft program was expanded into all 55 counties during the 2000-2001 school year.
“I truly believe we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be accomplished when business and education develop partnerships to provide students with high tech training for real world jobs,” he noted.