SAP Addresses IT Skills Shortage

The German ERP giant is taking it upon itself to ensure that its customers have the people they need in the next four years.

IT professionals with a strong battery of SAP skills have seen their salaries soar in the last two years.

ERP-related roles also accounted for one of the best-paying IT jobs in the first quarter of 2008, according to the Yoh Index of Technology Wages.

Furthermore, salaries within SAP specializations increased 15.2 percent in 2006, according to research released by Foote Partners.

However, strong salaries have done little to offset an industry-wide IT skills shortage that has left CIOs flummoxed over how to fill specific IT roles.

Like several large technology companies before it, SAP has created a university alliance program, which it hopes will ensure that its customers will have the SAP-skilled experts they need in the coming years.

Through the program, which encompasses 150 campuses in the United States and Canada and nearly 800 worldwide, SAP provides its business software suite at no charge for use in business, IT, CS and engineering classes, reaching 150,000 students each year.

SAP also works with universities on developing and innovating their coursework to incorporate SAP.

"The curriculum is not SAP-based, but we hope to help them to understand what SAP is doing in the next three to four years so they can be prepared," Donald Bulmer, vice president of industry and influencer relationships at SAP, told eWEEK.

SAP officials estimate this is just the tip of the iceberg of what they expect the SAP job market to be in the next three to four years.

"CIOs have told us that based on the investments they're making in SAP now, they're going to have to retrain or restaff as much as 90 percent of their departments in the next few years to make sure they can use, maintain and get value out of it," said Bulmer.

"We currently see an opportunity or deficit, depending on how you look at it, for 30,000 to 40,000 skilled workers with knowledge and experience with SAP to support our product and its usage within companies."
Simha Magal, a professor of management at Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., which focuses on integrated business processes, ERP and the role of SAP within this, viewing the information it imparts as central to what businesses need.

"It used to be that the IT discipline was distinct from the rest of business. Now, it is much more integrated, so it's not thought of as a separate discipline. Any [business] major needs to know about business-IT integration," said Magal.

In 2000, Magal had been contacted by executives in the region who wanted to know how the school could help them meet their employee needs.

"These CIOs represent the largest companies in West Michigan and are expecting to hire a lot of graduates in the next few years. They want to work with us to ensure that the students graduate with key skills," said Magal.