Cisco chief says give grads a chance

Technology companies must discard their reluctance to hire inexperienced graduates, says Cisco Systems Australia's new managing director, Terry Walsh.

They have favoured recruits with one to three years experience in the past but the current skills crisis demands they start hiring a percentage of newly-minted graduates, according to Walsh.

Practising what he preaches, Cisco Systems hires between two and three per cent of its staff as inexperienced recruits taken directly from industry training programs or tertiary institutions.

All IT organisations which claim to be good corporate citizens should be aiming for similar ratios in today's situation, Walsh said.

His remarks came at a Queensland ceremony involving the first group of Australian students from the entry-level Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) program.

They are graduating from Queensland's first Cisco Regional Networking Academy, which is operated by the Southbank Institute of TAFE. Around Australia, about 1100 students are enrolled at similar academies established by Cisco in cooperation with high school and tertiary institutions.

The 120 Queensland graduates include almost equal proportions of high school leavers and mature age students. Without experience, their CCNA certificates attesting to basic computer networking skills may not open many doors in the private sector, according to recruiting specialists.

"You can't beat experience when it comes to getting a job," said Wally Bowden, managing director of Bowden Computer Placements.

"Some government departments will hire them into trainee positions but it will be harder to place them in the private sector."

Walsh threw his support behind the recent call by the IT&T Skills Task Force for a national institute of infotech skills.

It is vital to have de-centralised training programs with broad geographic bases, such as the academies Cisco has established in every state, Walsh said.

However, complementing that approach with a centralised centre of excellence as proposed by the IT&T Skills Task Force "can only help", he said.

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