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Start them young, they say. The earlier that an individual learns specific skills, the better equipped they will be when they enter the workplace. That’s why there is such a strong push to teach coding skills to students as young as five in some European countries. It’s the best way to ensure students enter the workplace with skills that will serve them well for many years.
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But it’s not just schools and universities leading the charge on this. Businesses, too, are increasingly working with educational institutions to ensure workers have the necessary skills to do a specific job within their field.
It’s a theme that is particularly popular in the technology industry, with many businesses partnering with universities to offer courses or elements within a course that teach skills that sit within the company’s sweet spot.
One of these companies is NetSuite, which uses its SuiteAcademy programme to teach students skills related to cloud computing to prepare them better for entering the workforce.
“NetSuite Academy is a programne to give students some hands-on practical experience with ERP and CRM in the classroom,” says Mark Bidwell, associate director of educational programmes at NetSuite.
“There’s a big piece missing from academia and students – and that’s real hands-on knowledge of what companies are using when they hit the workplace. It’s about bridging that gap, so when they do get a job, then the systems that most mid-size and large businesses are using are not so shocking to them.”
SRH University Heidelberg
One of NetSuite’s partnerships is with the SRH University Heidelberg, one of the oldest and biggest private universities in Germany. It is made up of six faculties and currently has around 3,000 students studying a range of subjects, including business and computer sciences, music, architecture, psychology, social sciences and law.
The university will be incorporating NetSuite skills into its informatics curriculum with a focus on classes offering customer relationship management (CRM) and sales management, and supply chain and logistics. SuiteAcademy offers NetSuite licensing, resources and training at no cost, giving students hands-on experience with cloud computing skills and expertise.
Michael Schlecht, guest lecturer at the university, says: “Our students will gain highly sought after skills that today's employers covet, as more companies migrate to NetSuite cloud-based business management.”
And that’s one of the main positives for NetSuite too. As cloud computing adoption grows across Europe, the California-based company knows that enabling students to leave university with NetSuite skills will benefit it and its customers.
That also means campus recruitment. NetSuite uses its SuiteAcademy programme to hunt for the next generation of workers with NetSuite skills, Bidwell says. “We’re now at the point where we want to help our partners and customers, because there’s a real shortage of NetSuite talent out there. The company has grown so quickly and it’s not like we’ve been around for 40 years. So we want to steer students beyond knowledge of the company to actual skills with the products.”
To that end, part of the SuiteAcademy is dedicated to recruitment. “We have a dedicated website for every participating school, called a Student Resource Center,” Bidwell explains. “We put all of our jobs on there. The next step is to put our partners’ jobs there, so students can see that learning a certain product could land them a job at a partner or a customer, if not NetSuite itself.”
NetSuite says that over 25,000 students have used its technology as part of SuiteAcademy since its launch in 2011, but has no exact figures for how many students it or its partners have so far employed.
The deal with SRH University Heidelberg is the first in Europe, and the University of Lleida in Spain has also joined the programme. Bidwell says a deal is under discussion with a university in Ireland through one of NetSuite’s partners.
It’s not a surprise that companies with a big focus on cloud computing – SAP and Salesforce.com, for example – are getting more involved with university courses across Europe. According to recent research, cloud adoption in the UK now stands at 84%.
Separate research from Eurostat – a department of the European Commission that supplies statistics to the EU – shows that Finland tops the list for cloud computing usage in Europe, with 51% of its businesses using it. Italy (40%), Sweden (39%) and Denmark (38%) followed Finland.
Incidentally, the lack of a clear definition of what exactly constitutes cloud computing and how businesses are using it is the reason why Eurostat reports that only 24% of UK businesses use cloud services, which is much smaller than the figure reported by Cloud Industry Forum research. Whichever figure is correct, the general trend is undoubtedly upwards, so it makes sense for tech companies to try to increase their involvement with universities.
The Eurostat research also states that “insufficient knowledge of cloud computing” is one of the main reasons why businesses across Europe have not started using cloud computing services. Greater knowledge of cloud computing and the skills needed for it is one of the main aims of university programmes such as the NetSuite’s SuiteAcademy.
A leg up
By giving students more knowledge of cloud computing and its associated skills NetSuite and other tech companies are helping to prepare the next generation of workers to be fully cloud-ready. As a result, when they enter the workforce they will help increase the knowledge of cloud computing, and therefore adoption of it.
According to Eurostat’s report SRH University Heidelberg’s home nation of Germany is struggling with cloud adoption: just 11% of companies are using it there. That gives students taking part in NetSuite’s SuiteAcademy a huge advantage over the next few years. If they can develop skills associated with NetSuite’s products, as well as more general cloud computing skills, they can put themselves in a very strong position when it comes to entering the marketplace.
“For our students studying business informatics, it's essential to learn a good combination of theory and practice,” says Gerd Moeckel, dean of the school of informatics. “The cloud is the future of software, and bringing NetSuite into our curriculum for hands-on training will help educate our students in the most up-to-date and sophisticated business management software.”