Ready for a career change? Kick start it at a library with Cisco NetAcad qualifications

Following on from an introduction by Neil MacInnes, Manchester Libraries’ Head of Service, at an EU Public Libraries 2020 meeting in Brussels, in December 2017, Manchester Libraries and Cisco began an exciting pilot partnership to set up libraries as an academy, and offer access to the free Cisco Networking Academy courses for library customers.

The Cisco Networking Academy courses are IT industry standard qualifications that are designed to help students develop technical mastery and build critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The courses are provided by Cisco at no cost, to address the shortage of skilled and qualified staff in the IT sector. Libraries bring two key offers to the pilot; a large, diverse and loyal customer base, and a trusted position as a venue for informal learning. The goal of the pilot is to reach as many residents as possible and has the potential to be rolled out across the UK.

There are two types of courses on the Cisco Networking Academy website – instructor-led and self-paced. There are also courses set at three levels of capability; beginning, intermediate and advanced. Given libraries’ excellence in providing informal learning opportunities we decided to offer six self-paced courses at beginner level:

  • Get Connected
  • Introduction to the Internet of Things
  • Introduction to Cybersecurity
  • Cybersecurity Essentials
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Introduction to Packet Tracer.

Although the courses offered are beginner level in terms of IT industry qualifications, they do require a certain level of ability and confidence in the learner, so from a library point of view (where a beginner may be looking to take the very first steps in using a computer) we consider them to be some of the most advanced IT learning opportunities we provide access to. In this way, these courses broaden the range of IT learning courses that Manchester offers:

  • Beginner: One-to-one support,, Job Clubs, Silver Surfer sessions
  • Intermediate: Drop-in sessions/courses provided by education provider partners, Code Clubs
  • Advanced: Cisco Networking Academy courses, BIPC business skills sessions, music/arts development sessions.

Access to the courses is through the Manchester Libraries website; the message we have given to all staff to support the pilot is to tell enquirers to google ‘Manchester Libraries’ and ‘Cisco’ to easily find the webpage.

We promoted the pilot through late December and early January with an email update to library members and a social media campaign which comprised of daily tweets highlighting the courses to anyone looking to gain some IT industry standard qualifications, or who was simply thinking about changing career. During February we have switched focus, to concentrate on promoting the opportunity to customers in our libraries using traditional printed media, which also helps to maintain awareness and buy-in for library staff.

Uptake has been really encouraging in the two months of the pilot so far – the month to mid-January saw 54 enrolments to courses, and the following month to mid-February saw 90. The most popular course is Introduction to Cybersecurity, which has attracted almost half the number of enrolments.

A number of other library services, including Norfolk, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool have now joined as Cisco Academies. If you would like to get involved, please contact Cisco for more information.

Ian Hopkinson
Service Development Specialist (City Centre)
Manchester Libraries