he program the academy has designed isn’t specifically tailored to individuals with extensive computer experience, but are more open to anyone with an interest in IT. Students can learn the networking basics and gain knowledge on how networks work and how to keep them running smoothly.
Four courses, each taken one day a week for three months, are required to do the CCNA Routing and Switching certification exam for the first program. After completing and passing that program, students can look into adding other courses and certifications or entering the job market.

A starting point

“This will be the starting point for anyone who either has a background in IT, doesn’t really know much about networking, or wants to change careers and seek new opportunities,” says Marcela Velez-Pulgarin, program manager at Sheridan College in Oakville, ON. “We want to create a path for students starting from scratch — or anyone with a basic to introductory knowledge of networking — to become an advanced technician or support person.”

The program is partly theory, partly hands-on training. Students are required to bring in their own laptops, though do not necessarily have to have a wide range of computer experience to study and earn the certification. While computer knowledge is helpful, it’s not a prerequisite to enter. Nor is a certain academic standing or grade point average necessary to apply.

All of the equipment for these programs is supplied by Cisco, and the company recommends a 2:1 ratio, meaning two students for each piece of equipment to ensure the hands-on training and simulation are allocated evenly, says Wadih Zaatar, area manager for the Cisco Network Academy. Class sizes are also small, with about 15 students at a time.

Going further

After completing the first two courses, students can choose to take the Cisco CCENT certification exam or study CCNA Security. Beyond that, there are options to advance further wherever those more advanced programs and courses are offered.

“If the institution chooses to advance, then we have more advanced courses,” says Zaatar. “We propose a track, not just one or two courses — an exploratory track, foundational track, and career-ready track that any of our partners can take, depending on their student population.”

The career track is what builds networking professionals. The CCNA certification is the entry point, but moving forward, a student could start as a computer technician, moving up to a networking technician, networking administrator, or network engineer.

“This program is an entry point to get to a higher level of training, and we are talking about good jobs there,” Zaatar emphasizes.