If you fancy joining the IT world as a professional, then you'd be wise to get OCR's iPRO qualification under your belt, as Chris Drage discovers
If you haven't heard of Cisco Systems, the world's networking giant, then in ICT terms you are definitely "uncool". Many people have and many more are considering setting up a Cisco Networking Academy in their schools and colleges, because the Cisco Networking Academy Programme (CNAP) offers a passport to opportunity in the world market of ICT expertise.
Until recently, acceptance of the programme's courses in British mainstream education had met with some apathy. But with the broadening of the courses on offer and the success of its e-learning curriculum and online assessment, opinions have changed. Years 12 to 13 students can now embark on an inspirational qualification (at three levels), which is the only nationally recognised suite of IT professional qualifications to fully integrate units from industry-leading, global organisations such as Cisco, CompTIA and Microsoft. The qualification is OCR's iPRO.
Secondary schools already teaching ICT "user" courses in their 6th form should seriously consider the OCR Level 23 Certificates for IT Practitioners (ICT Systems Support), which is designed to help people get a foot in the door of the competitive IT industry, and for those who already work in an IT role but want to improve their skills. iPRO has been designed with the needs of employers in mind; the qualification offers candidates the chance to take vendor-specific units. It is also flexible, enabling students to achieve the full qualification or one or more individual units, according to their needs, offering them yet another string to their ICT bows.
The qualification contains 11 units. To achieve an OCR Level 2 Certificate for IT Practitioners (ICT Systems Support), candidates are required to achieve three units - two mandatory, plus one optional. Five units are assessed via electronic vendor tests offered in partnership with Cisco, CompTIA and Microsoft.
At Level 3, the qualification provides opportunities for learners to study towards system and network management, in addition to being able to take units that are vendor-specific. The qualification contains 26 units, 15 of which are assessed via electronic vendor tests. To achieve an OCR Level 3 Certificate for IT Practitioners (ICT Systems Support), candidates are required to achieve six units - three mandatory, plus three optional.
If the school already runs a Cisco Academy, then it is well placed to take full advantage of the opportunity to deliver courses that will provide the schools' students with a qualification and the experience that employers are crying out for. Once you have the resource and the staff trained, a school's Cisco Academy can also become a Microsoft IT Academy and can deliver CompTIA's A+ and so forth.
At John Kelly Technology Colleges we decided to convert two adjacent, elderly classrooms in the 6th Form into Cisco Lab and curriculum areas.
This area was to become a "flagship" area for the school, and as it should attract members of the wider community as well, it had to both look and be "hi-tech". With this project, be prepared for changes and alterations in the "grand design" as work proceeds.
It is vital to understand the physical topology required. Visit other Cisco Academies in the area to see their solutions. The lab does not need high-spec machines, but they do need to be able to run modern operating systems such as Win2000 or XP Pro. You need to have a good cabling job done in both areas, and to do this you should ideally choose a company who understands the special requirements of a Cisco Academy. The curriculum network is just that, and apart from downloading the courses you are delivering on to the intranet for fast and efficient access. These days I find that an interactive whiteboard is also essential. For the lab area, it is important to consider the placement of the routerhub cabinet. Students do need to work comfortably round it.
Getting and keeping the right staff is a major issue, because once they are trained they become very marketable people. However, once you have a good, well-trained team, there is buzz about being at the cutting-edge of ICT and things really swing. Combined with the benefits of iPRO, a Cisco Academy can look forward to helping the school offer their Years 11, 12 and 13 students ICT courses that really do count in the "real" world.
OCR's iPRO qualification
The advantages can be summed up as:
* iPRO is becoming a benchmark in the IT industry
* It provides skills to get a job applying knowledge relevant to the workplace and is the most flexible suite of IT professional qualifications for schools and colleges
* It offers greater flexibility of choice
* It is for learners who want to get into the competitive IT industry.
* It provides skills to get a job - applying knowledge relevant to the workplace.
What the course comprises
* Level 2 Certificate for IT Practitioners (ICT Systems Support)
* Level 3 Certificate for IT Practitioners (ICT Systems Support)
* Level 4 Certificate for IT Professionals (ICT Systems Support)
* Level 2 Certificate for IT Practitioners (Software Development)
* Level 3 Certificate for IT Practitioners (Software Development) What do you need to do in order set up a Cisco Academy?
To ensure a consistent level of training and quality assurance, Cisco has a list of requirements that all its academies must follow. In general, you will need to be able to provide the following:
* A good-sized room with up-to-date, networked computers (one computer for every student is expected)
* A lab area where students can work round an open cabinet housing routers, switches etc
* Obtain and maintain active, separate, electronic mail accounts for all instructors and key support personnel
* A broadband internet connection to the Academy (2Mb minimum)
* Willingness to attend training sessions to learn how to deliver the Cisco Quality Assurance Plan
* Willingness to comply with the CNAP
* To become a Cisco Academy, an educational institution must become a Local Academy and sign a support agreement with a Regional Academy for training, guidance and support (about pound;3,000 a year) Links
* For details about iPRO: www.ocr.org.uk
* For details of the CNAP: www.cisco.comeduemea