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Building the Human Capital for Sustainable Cities: Filling the Talent Pipeline for Smart Urban Systems

Investing in human capital – The talent equation at Cisco

Building the Internet of Things economy is a bit like building a new city – it’s the people that make the difference.

When you are in the early stages of creating any new industry you have to think about exponential ways to create the talent pipeline that will fuel digital business and the digital economy. It cannot be a ‘business-as-usual’ approach.

When the internet was just beginning to build scale, we (Cisco) realized that if we were to lead in this industry and foster its growth, we needed to do something magnificent at scale to attract talent that could drive the industry forward. We needed millions of engineers that focused on networking and communications technology so that we could connect everyone and help enable organizations to build the internet business models and digital disruption that we all take for granted today.

This is why we created education and certification programs, and transformed learning and training into a digital experience so the programs and technologies could scale at an accelerated level globally.

After a decade of putting education and certifications into place, we had grown our engineering community across the industry to about 200 thousand engineers, but to keep up with the pace of growth in the industry we needed to grow to 3 million engineers. We mapped out the growth of the industry against talent needs by geography and technology discipline and set up a talent forecast model that allowed us to set goals and take action within a five-year aggressive plan for growth.  We then executed the plan to scale talent through new social and collaborative learning models that built the community and helped enable a whole ecosystem of talent. Our education programs like Cisco Certifications, Networking Academy, and the Cisco Learning Network all enabled this exponential growth.

The goal of this effort was to create the professional talent pool that could lead our customers and partners through the journey of building new innovative solutions enabled by the internet that could drive new connected business models that enable digital disruption. The net benefit has been far reaching, beyond Cisco. The main beneficiaries of our efforts to bolster the workforce were our customers and partners, representing 99 percent of the need, with a natural cascading to the wider industry.

Once we had the structure, programs and goals in place, we realized we didn’t have the scale. So about ten years ago, we created what’s recently been acknowledged as the first social learning platform in the industry – The Cisco Learning Network. The goal was to throw open the gates, to remove the barriers of place, space and time from education, and to allow anyone into these careers if they chose to pursue them.

Talent is the catalyst for smart connected cities…

Building the Internet of Things economy is a bit like building a new city – it’s the people that make the difference. 

In the new digital landscape, business and cities will need to connect in new and different ways to drive intelligent transportation, and ensure critical infrastructure and public services are sustainable, safe and scalable for growing populations. A mechanism for connecting our educational institutions and leaners in the workforce into this ecosystem is critical. In fact, it’s ‘do or die’. None of these entities can continue to operate in a vacuum if cities and local talent are to reach their potential and compete in a digital economy.

Digital transformation and the Internet of Things will require businesses and the public sector to move from being buyers of talent, to builders of talent. Every organization will have to figure out how they will feed the talent pipeline in a digital economy, whether they are public or private sector. We recognized, along with many other smart companies and academic institutions, that no one organization can solve for this talent deficit alone. Just like the building the internet – building IoT solutions expertise and business capability to drive a new set of innovative solutions across many industries will require an immense reskilling of the existing workforce as well as building it into academic and private education systems.

Today’s talent shortfall is in the millions. We are not talking about small talent voids. In cybersecurity alone a million people are needed today to fill the jobs deficit in this industry – and we don’t have that. In order for infrastructure to connect securely, we need to have this kind of talent at that kind of scale today.

The reality of the job marketplace today is that even traditionally nontechnical jobs will need a higher level of technical literacy and understanding. We predict that about 50 percent of all jobs are going to require a serious amount of technology literacy in how to reinvent your approach to your job as well as using the new tools to be able to go to work and be productive. So it’s really critical that you have learning mechanisms in place and the right media available than can show people how to do their jobs in new and practical ways.

Re-skilling the workforce to meet escalating demands…

This year we started the IoT Talent Consortium (http://www.iottalent.org/about-us#videos), which was founded in May 2015. The IoT Talent Consortium is about changing the way we develop and acquire talent, by defining new hybrid skill sets and building training and matching platforms to facilitate the transition to an IoT world.

To do this properly we need to adopt an industry perspective and bring our collective intelligence back to the community to empower the world to meet the need. The IoT Talent Consortium was a natural outcome from common interests at the Internet of Things World Forum and represents our new level of engagement in this effort with the greater community. We at Cisco can’t solve for this alone. We need expertise from the leaders in IoT industries, educators, cities and government and beyond to participate.

We invite all of you to look at this and encourage you to join. Essentially, we are bringing together all industries that are in the new industrial internet and smart city forum to help us decide what jobs need to be created in this new space, where there are at many new job types being created with new types of skills we haven’t seen before.

At Cisco, we believe that the internet and education are the great equalizers to equality and human growth. We have always invested a lot in the promise and processes of job specific training, but it will take a village to build an IoT-ready workforce. Our hope is that the IoT Talent Consortium can bring forward a new capability that allows every employer to engage in the way we have, by aggregating and leveraging shared assets, best practices and thought leadership to address our collective talent challenge.

That’s one reason the IoT Talent Consortium is focusing on building a ‘talent exchange’ grounded in standards created with big employers working in every sector of the Internet of Things. Each industry sector has its own ecosystem to reach and tap into. By connecting them together, we think we’ll bring forth another million people trained for this new digital world. Even though it’s going to come from outside of the school system, the whole idea is to democratize education.

When you take on a mammoth new ecosystem to support the creation of the Internet of Things, you have to take great responsibility for creating the talent pool for that industry. Without the talent, cities development and economic prosperity will be stymied.

“We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.” ~John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America.

 

Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn

About the Author : Jeanne Beliveau-DunnJeanne Beliveau-Dunn is a recognized thought-leader on the “Workforce of the Future” and an expert in workforce education, the social enterprise and knowledge systems. Jeanne is the President and CEO of The Internet of Things Talent Consortium; and leads mission-critical businesses for Cisco, including Learning@Cisco and The Office of Innovation.View all posts by Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn

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