Learning through a pandemic
CNet Training CEO Andrew Stevens talks to Quest about his company’s resettlement programmes and how CNet has managed to continue educating the industry throughout the pandemic …
Everyone relies on the data centre and network infrastructure industry (often referred to as the digital infrastructure industry), most of the time without even realising. COVID-19 has highlighted to all of us just how much we rely on technology to stay connected. Whether it is to check emails, run a global organisation remotely, watch Netflix or utilise technology, we all are dependent on these things working 24/7. The pandemic has increased demand across the entire digital infrastructure industry, with more people than ever working from home and wanting to stay connected with work, friends and family.
The industry is already facing a skills shortage, with demand for cable engineers, data centre technicians and project managers at an all-time high and not enough people joining the sector to meet the increased demands. Andrew tells us more …
Thanks for taking the time to speak with Quest, Andrew. How have things been for the industry over the past few months?
Andrew: It’s been a strange time for everyone. The digital infrastructure industry is facing increased demands, and organisations are trying to keep everyone safe, as well as ensure that everyone in their teams is skilled and confident in their roles, to ensure the world can keep connected and communicating during these uncertain times. The pandemic has changed the way of working for many people. We also needed to adjust and find safe learning solutions in order to protect the learners attending programmes in our classrooms, and to increase our remote attendance offering and give people options to suit their needs.
You have a remote attendance learning option. Can you explain a bit about how it works?
We introduced our remote attendance offering three years ago. We initially anticipated this would be driven by the global need for us all to operate in a more sustainable and environmentally sensitive way – what we didn’t anticipate was COVID-19. The benefit of having a remote option in place meant all of our instructors and technical teams were already geared up to deliver certain programmes remotely.
Our live instructor-led remote attendance programmes really are different to most, being delivered in specially designed smart rooms by CNet’s leading expert instructors, providing a fully interactive and live learning experience in multiple time zones all over the world. The learner is transported into an environment where they can see, hear and interact with everyone else attending, as well as being able to interact with the instructor at all times. CNet’s remote attendance capability also allows for breakout discussions and group tasks to enhance and maintain the high-quality learning experience CNet is renowned for.
Some of our programmes that include practical hands-on elements initially proved a little more challenging to continue delivering at the start of lockdown as colleges and classrooms had to be closed. The team came up with a fantastic way to continue learning by creating a blended learning option for the Certified Network Cable Installer (CNCI®) programme. This allowed learners to have the option to undertake the theory element via live instructor-led remote attendance and then follow up with a scheduled classroom-based practical session when it was safe to do so. This was really popular with customers who wanted to be able to continue working towards their certification at the height of the lockdown period.
How have you ensured your classrooms are safe for learners to return to?
It’s essential that all our learners and employees feel confident in coming back in to work or the learning environment. As CEO of CNet Training, it was my responsibility to make sure we were doing everything in our power to keep everyone safe. Alongside reducing class sizes, providing PPE, adhering to social distancing, and our traditional cleaning methods and procedures, we wanted to go further to provide as much safety to our learners and instructors as possible. We use a World Health Organization-approved sanitisation spray product, which enables us to deep clean our office and classroom spaces, so they are ready to go within 30 minutes. The system provides everyone with the additional reassurance that with every application we are not only able to deep clean all of the surface areas but also the particles in the air, and kill 99.99% of all viruses and bacteria, including SARS and COVID-19. This hopefully helps to reassure our learners and staff that their safety is of utmost importance to us.
CNet has a long history working alongside the Armed Forces. What skills do you believe ex-Forces personnel bring to the digital infrastructure industry?
CNet has always supported those who have served and who are currently serving, and all those connected with the Armed Forces. We have educated thousands of Service leavers since 1996, providing them with the skills, hands-on experience and sought-after qualifications to enter the lucrative network cable and data centre sectors. I firmly believe the experience gained in the Armed Forces provides key transferable knowledge, skills and disciplines to work across the network infrastructure and data centre sectors.
CNet employs many ex-Forces personnel, as well as a number of reservists. We also work with the key players across the digital infrastructure industry to discuss the importance of individuals with transferable skills who are perfectly suited for working in a mission-critical environment. I’m delighted that a lot of leading organisations are now following suit and putting plans in place to recruit and train more ex-Service personnel as they are also recognising that one of the main skills they have is discipline and attention to detail, which they see as an invaluable skill.
Can you explain a bit about CNet’s resettlement programmes?
They are available to those who are planning on leaving the Armed Forces and who, if eligible, can apply for funding using ELC, which varies depending on length of service. It’s such a fantastic opportunity for Forces leavers to gain the very latest technical knowledge and obtain industry-recognised qualifications and professional certifications to kick-start their new careers.
There is a wide range of resettlement programmes available for entry into the data centre and network infrastructure sectors. These include:
- Certified Network Cable Installer (CNCI®)
- Certified Network Infrastructure Technician (CNIT®)
- Certified Integrated Infrastructure Technician (CIIT®)
- Certified Outside Plant Technician (COPT®)
- Certified Network Infrastructure Design Professional (CNIDP®)
- Certified Telecommunications Project Management (CTPM®)
- Certified Data Centre Design Professional (CDCDP®)
- Certified Data Centre Technician Professional (CDCTP®)
- Certified Data Centre Management Professional (CDCMP®)
- Data Centre Fundamentals
- Masters Degree in Data Centre Leadership and Management (MA).
CNet’s technical team has also matched programmes to current military experience and levels to make it easier for Forces leavers to find the correct education programmes to meet their needs.
You adapted the Certified Network Cable Installer (CNCI®) programme for Service leavers. Can you explain this?
We wanted to ensure that Service leavers are in the best position to get a job in the industry after completing their resettlement programme with us, so we created an additional work placement as part of the Certified Network Cable Installer (CNCI®) programme. Following the CNCI® programme, Service leavers work with CNet’s resettlement team and are placed with a cable installation company for a 10-day work placement. This provides valuable on-the-job experience and, as the industry is facing a skills shortage, a lot of companies are looking for new recruits so I always like to compare this placement to a 10-day interview: what better way to show your knowledge and skills than being put in front of a team every day for two weeks? This has been really successful and has set the CNCI® resettlement programme apart from the rest.
What opportunities are there for Service leavers considering a career within the digital infrastructure industry?
There are strong opportunities within the network infrastructure and data centre sectors. The demand is only increasing and for those who are able to demonstrate their skills and knowledge with a certification and qualification, the job opportunities available to them are fantastic.
The Certified Network Cable Installer (CNCI®) programme is the industry-preferred certification and often highlighted as a must-have within tender documentation for new-build and refurbishment projects across the UK. Having this certification and qualification, along with our contacts throughout the sector, can really help people to enter the industry.
It’s a big deal when it comes to spending your resettlement grant and that’s why CNet has an experienced resettlement team to help you every step of the way and answer any questions you might have regarding our programmes and getting into the industry – with no obligation or pressure to book a programme.
Congratulations on receiving the Silver Employee Recognition Award. How did this come about?
It has been fantastic! As an organisation we signed the Armed Forces Covenant earlier in the year and more recently went on to receive the Employee Recognition Silver Award for our ongoing work to support the Armed Forces community and their families. As an organisation we are so proud of this achievement. We have been working alongside the Armed Forces since 1996 and are very fortunate to have a fantastic team made up of many ex-Forces personnel and reservists, who we support wholeheartedly. We don’t want to stop there, though. We are always determined to do more, and the plan is for the team to keep striving forward towards Gold in 2021, which coincidently will also be our 25th anniversary.
ELC Provider Number: 1267
I firmly believe the experience gained in the Armed Forces provides key transferable knowledge, skills and disciplines to work across the network infrastructure and data centre sectors
Andrew Stevens, CEO, CNet Training
Since studying for a marketing engineering degree, Andrew (pictured) has been involved in the international telecommunications and data centre industries for the past 32 years, starting his career within the manufacturing and distribution arenas. He joined CNet Training in 1997 as sales director and has been CEO since 2004. Andrew has always been an active member of numerous industry trade bodies, including the AFCOM, TIA, Uptime Institute, Green Grid, BCS and DCA. He created the global data centre education framework, and has been instrumental in the development of the only truly mapped qualifications and certifications for the data centre industry.
About CNet Training
International award-winning technical education company CNet Training has been designing and delivering professional network infrastructure education and training programmes since 1996. Today, it is the global leader in technical education for the digital infrastructure industry, comprising the data centre and network infrastructure sectors, and is the only industry dedicated education provider in the world to award both internationally recognised qualifications and professional certifications. These qualifications start at level 3 and culminate in the world’s only level 7 master’s degree programme in Data Centre Leadership and Management.
A significant part of CNet’s history is the development of the highly acclaimed Global Digital Infrastructure Education Framework, which offers industry professionals an opportunity to plan technical education, qualifications and certifications to meet ongoing individual and business needs.
CNet delivers classroom-based technical education programmes led by expert instructors, in locations across the world and via remote attendance, allowing ease of access to all industry professionals wherever they are in the world. In addition, it also delivers distance learning programmes.
Alongside its impressive client list of multinational organisations, the company is proud of its close associations with the world’s leading trade associations and industry bodies, including the Data Centre Alliance, Infrastructure Masons, AFCOM, 7x24, BroadGroup, Green Grid and Pearson. CNet is also trusted by many of the world’s leading manufacturers of data centre and network infrastructure solutions to design and deliver their specific training and education programmes.
The Global Digital Infrastructure Education Framework
CNet is proud to be the originators of the Global Digital Infrastructure Education Framework, which forms the benchmark education for the industry across the world. It maps professional education programmes to actual career routes and progression throughout the industry allowing learners to enhance their skills, knowledge, industry recognised qualifications and official certifications as they progress. And, of course, many programmes are eligible for ELC funding, allowing Service leavers extra help to continue to progress their careers.