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One of the little-publicized aspects of Cisco’s channel is a separate program for partners devoted to providing training and education services on Cisco products and solutions. The program’s not new. It’s been in place for 15 years, but of late, the networking giant has been trying to drum up greater notice.

The Cisco Learning Channel sports 350 partners that offer course work and other educational/training services on Cisco wares. Their services are open to Cisco’s traditional partner channel as well as for end customers that need training on how to manage and maintain Cisco infrastructure implementations, according to Andres Sintes, global director of Cisco’s worldwide learning partner channels. The partners are diverse in the types and means of training they provide, including instructor-led, e-learning solutions, remote access labs, training in local languages and online assessment and post-course evaluations.

Sintes’ current goal is to better align from a go-to-market standpoint the learning channel providers with partners in the rank-and-file Cisco channel ecosystem. Ideally, he envisions partners that today resell networking, UC and other Cisco solutions to tie in complementary services from these third parties in a type of P2P arrangement. Learning partners, he contends, bring superior training expertise to the table because of the additional investments they made as part of this offshoot Cisco channel. Those skills in turn translate into a value-add for traditional partners to offer their end customers and help cement their role as trusted advisor.

“What we are moving into now is to have our learning partners viewed by the market as providing greater value from the perspective of technology depth [on our products],” Sintes explained to me this week. “Providing a training component as part of a hardware and other product deal drives greater customer satisfaction.”

Recently, the company added six education specialties that dive even deeper into Cisco technologies to drive more sophisticated expertise among the learning partners that participate, Sintes said. Five of the education specialties map to advanced specialization around data center network infrastructure, storage networking, routing and switching, security and unified communications. The six specialization is careers-focused for those learning partners that focus their practices on prepping engineers and IT professionals for Cisco certifications exams.

To date, Sintes said, 25 percent of the learning channel partners have qualified for education specialties.