Companies' Requirements Vary

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The Microsoft and Novell training programs for high school students teach the fundamentals of managing computer-networking software, such as computer operating systems. The Cisco Systems program focuses on networking hardware, including routers and switches, with less emphasis on operating systems.

Each company focuses on training students to pass a test or series of tests for certification in its own product line. High schools must have at least one classroom equipped with the products of the company offering the training program.

The Cisco Systems equipment, what some people call the "physical plant" of networking, costs $14,000, but the World Wide Web-based curriculum is free. The point is to have a separate network that students can practice on so they don't cause the school's system to crash.

The Microsoft and Novell programs also require a local-area network for students to practice on, but the schools don't necessarily have to buy new ones. In addition, the Microsoft and Novell schools need to purchase software licenses and curricula.

All of the companies provide some free training for teachers, but schools must pay for the teachers to travel to training sites. Novell and Microsoft require that teachers be certified in the classes that they will teach before they begin teaching. Cisco's certification test is due out this month.

Students typically take the training courses in the same time slot as any other elective course. Even if they start as freshmen, most students pass only one or two tests and achieve only entry-level certification in computer networking--not full "engineer" certification--before they graduate.


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