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Wired high schools – Cisco, Nortel compete for students

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Two of the Triangle’s leading technology companies are launching programs to train North Carolina high-school students as high-tech workers, the Raleigh News & Observer reported June 4.

Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks are each providing equipment and specialized training in high schools and community colleges throughout the state.

“This is training for some very well-paying jobs, and it’s also a great example of a partnership between business and education,” Phil Kirk told the N&O. Kirk chairs the state school board and is also the president of North Carolina’s leading business advocacy group.

Kirk acknowledged that the programs are also a sophisticated form of marketing and recruiting future employees.

The two companies, who between them employ over 30,000 North Carolinians, have always found recruiting skilled technical workers to be a challenge. Their solution is philanthropy.

Cisco began its education program in 1997, and had more than 1,000 North Carolina students enrolled at 83 locations by this spring. Program graduates could make salaries starting at $40,000, straight out of high school.

Nortel is currently developing a competing program at Durham Technical Community College and at a Guilford county vocational school. Both programs offer students the opportunity to become certified network managers – strictly for Nortel networks.

Members of Cisco’s marketing and sales staffs have taken Southeast Raleigh High School students with them to trade shows.

“I went to one recently and I got about 10 different business cards from companies that wanted to hire me,” Chad Thompson, a 17-year old junior, told the N&O.

State officials say they have not helped either company sell schools on its program. The state Department of Public Instruction, however, works with both companies.

For full text, go to the News & Observer.

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