At the recent SAP University Alliances curriculum congress in Singapore Stephen Watts, President SAP APJ, called for help from universities. He indicated that there is a large SAP skill shortage and SAP need help from universities to address this shortage. He indicated that some projects have been delayed because of this skill shortage. But what sort of skills is he talking about? He also indicated that SAP only receives about 35% of their revenue from ERP systems. This is not to say that this is not an area where skill shortages exist. There have been some very good blogs from Art Worster
On the same day Paul Rosner, Vice President Business Information Systems BHPBilliton, spoke about the type of skills his company needs. He discussed deep technical skills supported by generic business skills (communication, problem solving etc.). He indicated that the technical skills would get students into the interview and then the generic skills would get them the job. The next speaker was from SAP HR Recruiting who emphasized the importance of the generic business skills.
Unfortunately too often I have seen academics focus on statements from industry relating to generic business skills in isolation. A lot of times these skills can be developed in parallel to the technical skills through different teaching methodologies. Also academics focus on the statement about SAP skill shortages without understanding the breadth of skills that exist in this ecosystem.
So what skills is industry after? There is no right answer as this will vary from country to country based on the maturity of the ERP environment. Academics in the different regions need to develop closer links with industry to understand the skill requirements. For example I asked the BHPBilliton speaker about their projects related to ESOA and composite applications to get a better understanding of the need for these skills. He indicated that this was not a priority for his company at the moment. This is the 3rd largest company in the world who have been innovators with SAP solutions. So should my staff be spending a lot of time developing curriculum in this area or are there different priorities.
I am not going to address the issue here about whether universities would be the defacto education arm of SAP. Universities could say that it is not their problem that there are SAP skill shortages. However they should not ignore the opportunities this provides through the initiatives SAP have put in place. Maybe market forces will fast track a solution to the skills shortages. Skills in demand will be rewarded appropriately so students will demand this knowledge and pressure academics to develop appropriate curriculum.
More and more I am seeing different areas of SAP making solutions and associated tutorials available to improve skill development. Maybe SAP will have to balance the need for skills and the need for revenue from SAP Education. I have proposed on a number of occasions that SAP should sell their education material at a reasonable price and increase the charges for certification. This would certainly facilitate the provision of skills.