Monday, October 2, 2023

Forward Training Center offers ‘gold standard’ in IT certification


The Forward Training Center of Hood County has added a new program that offers training to become a Cisco Certified Network Associate, the “gold standard of certifications in the IT industry,” according to former Cisco employee John Schlueter.

Those involved said that the certification will open doors to a variety of IT-related jobs, including cyber security.

Although Schlueter worked for Cisco for 21 years before retiring, he had to train to become a Cisco Network Academy instructor. He did so just so he could help Forward Training Center clients achieve the valuable certification, which he said is the equivalent of two years of college education.

“This is unique and it really is quite an amazing thing,” said Gay Berryman, district representative for the Cisco Networking Academy. Like Schlueter, she lives in Granbury.

Berryman said that the academy is a philanthropic initiative on the part of Cisco. The company created a portal with three courses that are accessible for free to teachers and students.

Created in 1997, the program is now in 190 countries and has served 17 million students, she said.

Schlueter has intentionally been taking it slow in creating the program at the FTC. He has instructed two students so far. One of those students, Caroline Naylor, has successfully completed the first course and is working with Schlueter one evening a week after work at her new job.

Naylor, who is from Brazil and moved to Granbury because of her husband’s job, found out about the Cisco Network Academy when she sought English as a Second Language classes at FTC with the goal of improving her English. Naylor did not begin the IT training as a complete novice. She took related courses while in high school in Brazil more than 20 years ago. A lot has changed in the industry since then.

Naylor reads course material and arrives for her weekly classes with Schlueter prepared to discuss what she learned, ask questions, and receive hands-on practice. The academy lab is a small classroom at the back of the FTC’s Building B near Decker Gym on West Bridge Street. It’s the building where the Granbury School Board used to hold its meetings.

“We have two routers and two switches,” Schlueter said. “A company donated some wireless gear.”

Berryman said that a network simulator comes with the curriculum.

Schlueter said that the learning experience helps students discover their talents and interests.

“The academy is really entry level stuff but should allow you to figure out what you like,” he said. “The IT industry, once your foot is in the door, the opportunities are endless. You can go into software engineering, cyber security is a huge part of the business right now, and data scientists, and they’re all intertwined together. Certain people have an aptitude for an area but are hungry to learn about an adjacent area.”

FTC Executive Director Katy Offutt expressed excitement about the new program, calling it “a really big deal.” She indicated that the nonprofit will probably plan a “big launch” in the coming months. More information can be found at

In the meantime, anyone interested in pursuing CCNA certification can drop by the FTC’s administrative office at 600 W. Pearl St., call that office at 817-573-6677, or email the center through its website.

To send an email, go to and click on “Contact Us.” Provide the information requested and click the “CISCO” box, which is one of the six classes listed.

Offutt said the office will quickly contact those who express interest in the IT training.

Naylor, meanwhile, is continuing her training. She has also become one of the FTC’s volunteers, helping Offutt prepare board manuals and assisting in other ways.

“People need to know this is a really great opportunity,” she said of the CCNA certification. “And this is for free.”


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