Cisco has announced that the number of graduates coming out of its Global Talent Acceleration Programme (GTAP) in South Africa has increased tenfold since the programme started in March 2008. From just 14 graduates in 2008 and 80 graduates in 2010, 140 students are projected to graduate in 2011.

Now entering its third year in South Africa and growing from strength to strength, the Cisco GTAP programme is part of an ongoing investment in the country in a long-term Cisco initiative aimed at developing home-grown information technology and communications (ICT) skills to contribute to South Africa’s economy, GDP growth and employment.
GTAP students, referred to as delegates, are recruited from all walks of life – some are professionals with three to five years’ work experience.
Cisco partners and customers also have the opportunity to put their own staff through GTAP, and students are also recruited from the most underprivileged communities throughout South Africa. All graduates are guaranteed jobs with Cisco partners or customers.
Key highlights and facts of the programme include:
* South Africa has and continues to experience tremendous IT growth, particularly in information, communication technology (ICT). The 2010 Grant Thornton International Business Report shows the lack of availability of a skilled workforce is South African business owners’ largest (34%) constraint to growth, for the fourth year in a row.
Furthermore, many businesses in South Africa have expressed concern about the lack of skills they are seeing coming from university graduates – resulting in poor performance and a lack of business understanding. As a result, skills development has become a key focus for businesses operating in South Africa.
* The Cisco GTAP Programme is supported by South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and aims to employ and train South African-based recruits at the professional and associate levels.
* Selected delegates are put through a rigorous 14 to 20 week programme that combines theory, industry exposure and hands-on experience.
* The Kelly Group is the recruiting company that advertises for and vets potential delegates. Anyone can apply to join the programme.
* GTAP delegates go through the training in relatively small groups of 16 people. This enables GTAP to put a strong emphasis on technical and professional training, mentorship as well as on- the- job training.
The training programme covers technical training in areas including data centre, unified communications/service provider, routing and switching. All graduates are guaranteed jobs either with Cisco or its customers and partners.
* The GTAP Programme is a core part of Cisco’s strategy to be a truly global company through the creation of new business models and the acceleration of local talent networks. GTAP has particular relevance in emerging countries, where there is a need to train and transition staff in services delivery. It is a profoundly sustainable programme, which is reflected in the way it has been designed and structured.
“Since the ICT sector capacity is directly linked to the size and skill of the available workforce, there is a need to find a solution that supplements the education system and university training – a solution that is supported by both the industry and government," says Nimrod Zalk, acting director general at the DTI.
"The shrinking pipeline in terms qualified candidates skilled in programmes such as information systems and computer science has created a challenge that compels the local industries to look outside of South Africa for skilled human resources. Although this solution offers temporary relief, it has the potential to increase the cost of doing business in the ICT sector.
"The DTI is pleased that Cisco, in response to the skills shortage and the need to comply with the National Industrial Participation (NIP) requirements, has introduced GTAP, aimed at providing technical and professional skills through education, exposure and 'on the job training' to students from the historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa.
"In support for the Cisco initiative, the DTI through its National Industrial Participation programme has granted approval to Cisco for the implementation of GTAP to satisfy its NIP obligation, and wishes Cisco all the successes going forward.”
“Instead of importing talent from other regions on a temporary basis, GTAP helps Cisco to provide our partners and customers with a long-term solution in the form of a highly skilled and well trained local work force," says David Meads, GM for Cisco in South Africa.
"The skills that GTAP provides to its graduates contribute to the local knowledge infrastructures that are critical for accelerating and sustaining economic growth in South Africa.”
“Storetech has been a proud supporter of the Cisco GTAP programme for a number of years now. The level of candidates that the programme produces seems to be getting better and better each year. The fact that a strict screening process is adopted up front as well as throughout the programme, ensures that the candidates that eventually graduate are of the highest calibre and standard," states Brian Tarr at Storetech.
"We like the well rounded yet disciplined approach of the programme, with a large emphasis being placed not only on the technical training but also on the softer people side, in terms of developing the communications skills and confidence of the individuals.
"The fact that the programme covers the full scope of Cisco solutions, including voice, R&S, security, data centre and service provider, means that you will always be presented with high calibre individuals certified in Cisco's strategic growth areas."
“The GTAP programme is a great idea as it gives young students the opportunity to get in-depth training in a highly sought after skill set. We were impressed by the fast track approach that not only focuses on in depth technical knowledge but also includes some basic business skills and even a sales perspective," says Warwick Talbot at Accenture.
"With their theoretical training in place, we were quickly able to put the delegates to work on projects for them to gain some additional practical experience. GTAP has provided a good basis for their future careers in networking.”
“We have witnessed a definite growth in maturity in the people attending the GTAP from a personal and technical view. They collaborate or a higher level and the contribution made to the environment is more positive than before," Johan Vorster at Standard Bank.
"They participate in every facet of the planning phases and are not scared to give their technical input. Definitely worth the programme.”