SAP has called for businesses, schools and universities to collaborate more closely in a bid to bridge the skills gap.
A recent roundtable, organised by SAP at the University College London (UCL), brought together academics and businesses to discuss how to inspire young people to become interested in technology and ensure they have the right technical and soft skills required for today’s work environment.
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Cathy Ward, EMEA head of diversity and early talent at SAP, said: “The European Commission predicts that by 2015, Europe alone will lack a staggering 900,000 ICT practitioners. It is clear that something needs to be done; we cannot wait for policy to change, we must act now.
“As one of the largest IT organisations in the world, it is incumbent on SAP to play its part and invest in the workforce of tomorrow.”
Debbie Forster, UK managing director of Apps for Good, said: “Between the ages of 10 and 14, children begin to look ahead and think about their future – they even start to rule out certain careers.
“This is the time to open their eyes to the possibility of a future career in IT. If organisations can work more collaboratively with schools, they can educate young people on the opportunities available to them.”
Martin Gollogly, director for the university alliances programme at SAP, said industry working with educational institutions is not just about ticking a box for corporate social responsibility, “it is an investment in the future”.
“Young people need to integrate academic learning with practical opportunities to test that learning while they are at university. By doing this they learn what is important, both academically and for themselves personally. Otherwise they run the risk of being technically qualified but being under-skilled,” he said.
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Forster said employers are looking for young talent that can demonstrate both knowledge and skills. “It shouldn’t be an ‘either/or’ situation. It all comes back to getting the right balance in education,” she said.
Richard Pettinger, principal teaching fellow in management education at UCL, agreed. “Qualifications and softer skills such as teamwork, problem solving, analytical and communication skills, need to be integrated if we are to solve this issue," he said.
“At UCL, all of our courses are related to industry and developing those skills which are in high demand from employers. Of course, anything is possible in a microcosm. If we want to close the skills gap we need to demonstrate the value of integrating qualifications and skills to get more input from industry and more financial support from the government and EU.”