In June 2008, a company named Forrester Consulting conducted a commissioned study on behalf of Cisco named “Closing the IT Network Skills”.

The study highlighted that managers looking to hire employees should take a three phase approach.

Firstly, they should focus on roles, rather than titles. Job titles can be varied between organisations, such as Analyst, Administrator, Technician and so on. Roles are generally universal and don’t tend to vary as much despite the size, location or industry that the company belongs to.

Secondly, assess the skills gap. By taking a good look at what is required within the business and how these roles have/are changing, a more specific, targeted approach can be taken to close the skills gap between roles in the ever-changing network environment.

Lastly, to ensure that the relevant and required skills are maintained, organizations should provide training and certification. Having a Cisco certification sometimes highlights on paper that you have passed an examination in the skills being sought after.

Cisco examinations are constantly changing and pose real-world scenario troubleshooting tasks that prove a candidate’s hands-on focused skills in addition to their theoretical knowledge. You have probably heard the phrase about paper certification proves little but with Cisco requiring a number of practical hands-on exercises as opposed to multiple-choice questions, candidates really must know what they are doing which in turn provides the employer with the reassurance that those skills are valid. Add to this that the certification also expires at regular intervals, recertification validates a candidate’s skills for existing and emerging technologies.

The survey showed:

  • A dedicated Wireless networking role has been implemented by 36% of the global companies surveyed. This figure was expected to increase to 66% over the following 5 year period.
  • At the time of the survey, only 46% of those companies had a dedicated Security role within their business. That number was expected to increase to 80% within the following 5 years.
  • In addition, only 40% of those companies had a dedicated Voice specialist, whereas 69% of those IT managers expected to see this number over the same period.

Cisco introduced the certification programs Cisco CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, and CCNA Wireless that will meet these challenges. These are role-based, technology specific certifications that provide current and future networking professionals with a learning path for career advancement.

CCNA Wireless

The CCNA Wireless certification validates the candidate’s skills in the configuration, implementation, and support of wireless LANs, specifically those networks using Cisco equipment. Students are prepared for them to configure, monitor and troubleshoot basic tasks of a Cisco WLAN in small to medium-sized business (SMB) and enterprise networks. Once candidates complete the certification, employers will be able to validate that their staff have the skills needed for basic wireless networking on a Cisco WLAN in SMB and enterprise networks.

CCNA Security

The CCNA Security certification meets the needs of IT professionals who are responsible for network security. It confirms an individual’s skills for job roles such as network security specialists, security administrators, and network security support engineers. This certification validates skills including installation, troubleshooting, and monitoring of network devices to maintain integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data and devices, and develops competency in the technologies that Cisco uses in its security structure.

CCNA Voice

The CCNA Voice certification validates skills in VoIP technologies such as IP PBX, IP telephony, handset, call control, and voicemail solutions. Candidates also get exposure to the Cisco Unified Communications architecture and design covering mobility, presence, and TelePresence applications.

Cisco ran a contest on LinkedIn between 9-14 May 2011 for contestants to provide feedback on “How Cisco Certifications Help My Career”. The results were posted on the Cisco website at the Cisco Learning Network. Head over to here and see the results for yourself.

Scott Stephenson is a Principal Technologist at QA- leading providers of Cisco Certification and training courses, where he is responsible for authoring courses and instructing on the Windows OS, Networking Infrastructure, Active Directory, Exchange, Security, Virtualization and Cisco technologies.

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