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An offer you can’t refuse: A free, online, eight-week training course designed as a stepping stone into the networking industry, starting Dec. 3. As COVID-19 continued its viral, global destruction, businesses were hard hit, many shuttering, leaving staff untethered and unemployed. However, one area of business has thrived, and in demand since the beginning of the pandemic is the technology industry.

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As it decimated businesses, the coronavirus accelerated digital transformation strategies, and drove demand for network administrators, data engineers, and IT managers—all of which are positions that are necessary in a wide swath of industries. Job-search sites have reflected this major influx of job postings. On the hiring website Indeed, for example, postings for junior enterprise architects have increased 278% since 2019.

Extreme Networks, a cloud-driven networking company, has partnered with universities worldwide to create Extreme Academy and a curriculum for technology-based careers, and skills that are applicable in the real world, right now. Aspiring IT professionals are schooled in networking, security, and cloud fundamentals, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

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Upon completion of the sessions, students will receive CV-boosting accreditations and certifications, as well as an Extreme Networks associate-level qualification.

In addition to a partnership with universities such as Barnsley College, the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Gannon University, and the Santarém School of Management and Technology, Extreme has also partnered with Netjer Networks, STEP CG, and the United Way.

Chris Preston, vice president of corporate relations for United Way Worldwide, said in a press release: “Connectivity is as essential as electricity, but nearly half of the world’s population lacks quality internet access. As the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit, United Way is proud to work with Extreme Networks to help close the digital divide. Extreme is a valued partner, supporting our efforts to connect underserved communities. And with Extreme Academy Live, they are going even further to make vital job training more accessible to more people.”

The courses, stressed Extreme Networks in the press release, are committed to narrowing the digital divide. The program is part of the efforts to bridge the gap between aspiring IT professionals and a welcoming industry.

“In the IT and networking industry there is a clear and growing demand for skilled professionals,” said Ed Meyercord, president and CEO, Extreme Networks. “As part of our commitment to narrowing the digital divide, we are widening accessibility to Extreme Academy. This will help fill the demand for networking engineers and IT professionals by making training available to anyone, anywhere, with free live-streamed coursework, in-depth instruction, and certification.”

Meyercord added that in addition to the benefits the program will offer to students, it’s equally ideal for “current professionals and displaced workers looking for job retraining.”