Cisco sets up first university programme in Saudi

US networking giant launches programme in partnership with Prince Sultan University (PSU).

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By  Wael Mahdi Published  November 22, 2007

US networking giant Cisco Systems on Tuesday launched its first networking university programme ever in the Saudi-capital Riyadh in partnership with Prince Sultan University (PSU) to increase the pool of IT top-notch in the Kingdom that will carry out the company's future development.

Cisco designed the "NetVersity" program to qualify high-ranking Saudi university graduates to acquire both business acumen and technical skills necessary in order to shorten the shortage gap in the market for Saudi IT professionals.

Saudi Arabia and all Middle East countries have a shortage of skilled IT professionals. According to International Data Corporation 2006 figures, demand for networking skills in Saudi will exceed supply by 33% in 2009 and there will be a shortage of more than 33,900 skilled professionals. By this, Saudi Arabia will account for one third of the shortage in the Middle East region.

Cisco considers Saudi Arabia its major client in Emerging Markets as the oil-monarchy is embarking on an enormous investment plan to improve the country's infrastructure and to build six new mega economic cities. However, Cisco is finding difficult to carry out the projects without skillful professionals.

Cisco is determined on turning Saudi into a regional hub and it has the financial capabilities to do so. The company is investing one billion Saudi riyals (US $265 million) over the next five years for this purpose.

This year will be the pilot year for the program. The program only admits university graduates; and currently there are 40 top-notch Saudi university graduates enrolled.

The program is part of Cisco's social commitment to the Kingdom. The graduates of this program will not be limited to work for Cisco only as they have the luxury to join any other company.

Badr Al-Badr, Cisco's Saudi Arabia general director said, "Students are welcome but not obliged to join Cisco after finishing the program as Cisco aims at the benefit of the economy and the sector with this program."

Al-Badr explained that his company originally planned for employing NetVersity's graduates in Cisco and the hundred of subcontractors and vendors it deals with. "This will cause a trigger-effect that will benefit the entire sector," he continued.

"The program is in its pilot year, and at the end of the year we will be able to asses and evaluate its success," added Al-Badr. Al-Badr said that in case of its success in Saudi Arabia, Cisco is planning to launch the program in other countries and regions.

"Each student is costing Cisco more than $100,000 for the completion of the short program which lasts for one year," said the director of "NetVersity" program Omar Shaban.

"The trainees in this program are not considered students, instead they are considered Cisco's employees," he added. Besides establishing "NetVersity" program, part of the one billion riyals' worth of investment which will go for the establishment of 100 more Networking Academies in Saudi to provide enhanced technical programmes in concert with leading local universities.

The Networking Academies are open to everyone and they have different objectives than "NetVersity". There are currently 91 academies across Saudi Arabia with 3200 registered students. Cisco plans to have 25,000 registered students in its academies over the next five years.

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