Six institutions in the ORT network have already started offering Cisco courses, including schools in Kazan and Moscow, the Tula Vocational Training Boarding School for Deaf Children, and ORT-Keshernet centres in Tula and Tambov.
"Often schools are divorced from the real world," said ORT Russia National Director Dr Sergey Gorinskiy, who signed the agreement with Cisco's director of Government Affairs, Mikhail Pakhomov, in the presence of ORT Russia President Professor Alexander Asmolov and Vice-President Professor Alexey Semenov. "Our partnership with Cisco builds a bridge between our schools and the real world."
Cisco's 60,000 employees design, manufacture and sell more than $40 billion-worth of networking equipment a year, components such as hubs and high-speed modems which are used to connect computers and other electronic devices together so that they can share files or resources like printers.
Since 1997, the company has trained more than 4 million people through its Networking Academy, which currently has 1 million people studying in 10,000 centres in 165 countries. In partnership with governments, institutions and organisations like ORT, which provide classroom space, computer lab equipment and qualified instructors, Cisco provides on-line curricula, teacher training and professional development for instructors. Already 11 teachers at the six ORT centres participating so far have been trained to teach the IT Essentials course - an introduction to the computer hardware and software skills needed to help meet the growing demand for entry-level information and communication technology (ICT) professionals.
"We plan to teach our students Cisco's CCNA-level courses, giving them practical professional expertise which will give them a head start in seeking work whether embarking on a career or as a way of paying their way through university as well as develop career skills such as problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking," Dr Gorinskiy said.
The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is one of five levels of courses offered by Cisco to overcome the shortage of people qualified to build, design and maintain the infrastructure needed to communicate, do business and even save lives. The internationally recognized qualification enables someone to install, operate and repair the networks, such as the Internet, that form the backbone of the global economy.
The partnership with Cisco is the latest piece in a mosaic of collaboration undertaken by ORT in the Former Soviet Union with the world's leading IT companies.
ORT Russia has already established concrete partnerships with Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Kaspersky Lab, and IBS/Luxoft which draw in cutting edge resources and expertise to the organisation’s schools and programmes.
"Working together with these great companies not only raises the practical value of what we are able to teach our students, it also enables us to create warm relationships between our schools and the companies themselves: students go on trips to their offices to get a feel for what working there would be really like. And it's increasingly common for them to meet there former ORT students who are establishing successful careers. It's inspiring for them to see people just a few years older than they are, who attended their own school not so long ago, doing well in life," Dr Gorinskiy said.