NSITE, NIB’s new talent management enterprise, received a grant of $95,700 from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) to fund its Cisco Academy training program. The initiative, which is in the midst of a successful pilot program, will provide people who are blind or visually impaired a sought-after opportunity to enter the cybersecurity industry and become a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), an industry-recognized certification of IT expertise. The program is the United States’ first Cisco Academy adapted to the learning styles of people who are blind.
The budding, two-year relationship with MEAF will strengthen NSITE’s capabilities and empower the enterprise to offer employment opportunities to people who are blind or visually impaired, with a focus on young adults within the community.
“When we launched NSITE this year, we made a commitment to provide solutions for employers and job seekers alike,” says National Industries for the Blind President and CEO Kevin Lynch. “Now, in partnership with organizations like the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, we can make that goal an attainable reality. The Cisco Academy is going to lead to exciting career opportunities and growth for an entire group of overlooked Americans.”
The Cisco Academy offers an accessible training program that ensures students are prepared for the cybersecurity workforce while also developing “soft” skills. Throughout the program, students participate in classes focused on resume writing, networking, mock interviews, and more. Upon completion, participants receive a CCNA certification and, for many, immediate job placement. Throughout the program, NSITE’s workforce development team will connect with top employers to ensure graduates have career opportunities upon completion. After graduates are placed, NSITE supports both new hires and employers to ensure workplace accessibility and overall employee success.
“This support from MEAF will further NSITE’s goal to prepare participants to pass the CCNA exam and take their careers in any direction they wish,” explains Jonathan Lucus, head of NSITE. “The virtual program will open so many doors. Last month participants received their first round of test scores and the class average was 94.5% – these participants are well on their way to achieving this career-changing certification.”
NSITE’s primary goal is to decrease the unemployment rate of people who are blind or visually impaired – the Cisco Academy is an invaluable tool toward advancing that mission. Misconceptions about the capabilities of people who are blind or visually impaired keep unemployment rates high for this largely untapped workforce – according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, nearly 70 percent of working-age Americans who are blind are not employed. The Cisco Academy seeks to remedy that, offering in-demand skills training and certification to people who are blind or visually impaired and connecting them with employers. MEAF’s partnership will help this vital initiative’s goal become fully realized.
“Our goal is to empower youth with disabilities,” says Kevin R. Webb, Senior Director of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. “By supporting the NSITE Cisco Academy, we can help demonstrate that individuals who are blind or visually impaired are a capable and reliable source of talent to fill vital, in-demand cybersecurity jobs.”