Cisco has announced a new Continuing Education Program that allows certified tech pros to earn their re-certification by racking up credits through ongoing coursework, rather than sit every two years for a written examination.
Initially, the program is available to holders of the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) and Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) certifications, with plans to phase in the company’s other credentials over time.
The move was driven by the spread of emerging technologies such as network programmability, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud solutions, all of which are of increasing importance to business strategies, said Tejas Vashi, senior director of product strategy and marketing at Cisco Services.
“While companies are putting a lot into education, the technology knowledge gap remains,” he said. “Digital transformation is forcing everyone to migrate their skills. The point of the continuous learning program is to make learning more flexible.”
Expanded and Evolving Education
Cisco is trying to meet a widespread business need for expanded and evolving technical skills in a way that addresses learners’ equally prevalent demand for increased flexibility. The company is integrating more business-related skills into the re-certification process so that IT staffers will have a greater understanding of how their work affects the business at large, and how changes to other areas of technology can impact their specialties. In today’s world, Vashi said, tech pros need more interdisciplinary skills.
“Of course [tech professionals] need in-depth knowledge of their area, but they also need to understand the ramifications of things happening in other areas,” Vashi said. For example, security experts need at least a general knowledge of new developments in cloud technology. “We’re embedding components to make sure everyone has appropriate awareness of evolving technology.”
Cisco also wants to address the concerns of tech pros who struggle to keep up with technical advances but are too busy to prepare for and take certification exams. This approach allows learners to access training materials at any time, absorb it all in smaller bites, and tailor their coursework according to their own professional needs. Cisco’s system can track each learner’s progress to recommend areas that may need strengthening before they can earn their certification.
Other organizations already offer continuing education as a way to earn re-certification. A spokesman for CompTIA—which has issued more than 2 million certifications on foundational IT, networking and security skills—said the trade group has allowed tech pros to do that for several years. But at the same time, he noted, “Cisco has a huge number of people with certifications. They’re one of the biggest presences in the industry.” That installed base makes Cisco’s program “significant.”
‘Removing a Barrier to Re-certification’
Tech pros may like the idea of recertifying through continuing education rather than repeatedly sitting for exams. MJ Shoer, chief technology officer for the managed services provider Internet & Telephone, LLC, in Methuen, Mass., thinks employers will like the change, too. “We give our people two days off to prepare for exams,” he said. “That’s two days of lost revenue, and that adds up fast across the company.”
Rich Miller, editor of the industry website Data Center Frontier, sees Cisco’s move as a reflection of the networking space’s increasing competition: “Cisco’s always been dominant and didn’t have to be as nimble as they do now.”
Miller is intrigued by the company’s decision to add business-related content to their recertification courses. “Anything that makes it easier to incorporate new knowledge makes it easier to evolve your skills as you build your career in IT,” he said. “IT people want to stay on top of changing technology, so this kind of approach is good for the individual as well as their company.”