Manchester cloud firm UKFast is teaming up with global tech giant Cisco to tackle the skills gap within the Northern Powerhouse.
Schools and education providers in the north of England are set to benefit from access to specialist resources and training, accelerating the delivery of digital education in the region.
The Cisco Net Academy equips teachers with the skills and resources to teach an innovative digital curriculum and has seen 73 North West schools sign up in a week following a launch event at UKFast.
UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones MBE said: "Everyone is talking about the skills shortage in technology, and there's no way we can combat that shortage if we don't give the teachers the tools to deliver cutting-edge digital training. Technology is evolving so quickly that we need to focus on supporting teachers and keeping them up to speed with the latest developments.
"Just last week a skills audit by Manchester Digital called on employers to engage more closely with education. It's something we've been doing at UKFast for years and we're seeing amazing results. You can see from the incredible uptake for the scheme from schools and colleges that it's something they're crying out for."
Nuno Guarda, Head of Corporate Affairs for Cisco in the UK & Ireland said: "It's critical for us to have strong partners like UKFast and the Open University because they bring amazing value to the curriculum and help deliver it to local schools. This has been Cisco's flagship CSR programme since 1997 and we're aiming to help everyone, not only IT professionals, become more confident in their use of technology and help them understand how it fits in the world that surrounds them."
Cisco and UKFast have partnered with the Open University to deliver the academically rigorous programme.
Schools and colleges already signed up include Manchester Academy, Loreto College and the Dean Trust, which runs eight North West schools including Broadoak, Ardwick and Ashton on Mersey.
Andrew Smith, Senior Lecturer in networking at the Open University (OU) & Head of the Cisco Academy Support Centre said: "It's a fascinating opportunity to work with UKFast and Cisco delivering training and resources to schools and colleges.
"I love the way UKFast thinks: it's dynamic, it's interested and it's engaged. They want to work with schools and support them for the good of the whole community.
"Developing our workforce and developing skills in the networking and cybersecurity sectors is critical as our digital economy grows. This programme allows young people to become more tech savvy and more employable."
Organisations seeking to benefit from the Cisco Net Academy can apply to UKFast to receive face-to-face training with technical experts from UKFast and Cisco and with academics at the Open University, gaining access to the extensive curriculum resources. Courses include networking, security, operating systems and digital foundations.
The Cisco Net Academy has 9,500 school partners worldwide and supports schools with expert advice so they can deliver industry-ready ICT into the curriculum. Partners like UKFast and the Open University give the programme increased reach locally and provide face-to-face and remote support for students.
UKFast's training and education centre represents a £4.5m investment from CEO Lawrence Jones. The firm works with more than 57,000 children and 40 schools across Greater Manchester, inspiring them towards a career in tech with digital masterclasses, workshops and code clubs.