Article originally authored by Perry Manross, Head of Global Corporate Affairs, SAP Australia & New Zealand
Youth unemployment and skills shortages – two issues that Australia must master to stay competitive. Currently at 13.6%, the youth unemployment rate is at a 12-year high. At the same time, the demand for digital skills is expected to increase above 7% in the short term. If the demand for skills is so high, then why is youth employment so low? SAP sees opportunity in this paradox, and in Australia we are putting our financial, technological and personal support into developing the best ways to train tomorrow’s talent for the jobs of tomorrow.
Work experience is one, crucial component of our approach. According to research supported by SAP’s CSR partner The Smith Family, more than a quarter of young adults recalling no experience while at school or college were not in education, employment or training – compared with only one in 20 who experienced four or more engagements.
It is these findings that recently motivated SAP to hold a three-day event like no other it has held in Australia. On the occasion of the opening of our SAP Innovation Centre in Melbourne, we invited not only customers and partners, but also local area secondary-school students to discuss, develop and deploy solutions to take on the paradox of youth unemployment and skills gaps.
On the first day, SAP staff hosted 15 students, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing them with a thorough understanding of the diverse roles and responsibilities across its business, from sales, presales, and value engineering, to channels, support and services. “It’s not like I thought,” one student said. “There’s a lot more to this than sitting in a dark room coding!”
Day two was the main event, where the students split up to attend panel discussions with C-level business leaders and government officials. Here CEOs and General Managers from some of Australia’s most esteemed brands and not-for-profits outlined the issues and set the context for the final activity of the day. In design thinking workshops, the students – alongside local leaders – took on youth unemployment and skills shortages developing prototypes to inspire real-life solutions.
On day three, students continued their work experience, presenting what they learned about the ICT industry and design thinking back to employees at an internal town hall meeting. When few dared to make a sound on the morning of day one, by the end of day three, they were presenting to an audience of 75 business leaders and information-technology professionals.
By their own accounts, work experience with SAP had activated the students’ imaginations and motivated them to think about a career in digital transformation. “Super Awesome People” was one student’s guess at what SAP stood for. Many SAP staff took it on.
Work Inspiration, as the initiative is officially known, was exactly that, and for many of the students the first of those four engagements The Smith Family research indicates are so vital for a meaningful education and career.
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