by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
CAPE TOWN – SAP, the global software corporation, has opened its first Next-Gen Lab on the African continent with the aim to foster closer collaborative relationships between universities, students and the broader corporate sector.
The facility has been opened at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to build up a digitally educated next generation talent pool with skills on both enterprise systems and digital innovation with analytics, machine learning and blockchain technology.
“SAP Next-Gen is a key part of enabling this,” said Ann Rosenberg, Senior Vice President and Global Head of SAP Next-Gen.
“The programme connects customers to academic thought leaders and researchers, students, startups, accelerators, tech community partners, purpose driven partners, venture firms, futurists, and SAP experts to reimagine the future of industries with SAP Leonardo, seed in disruptive innovation with startups, and build skills for digital futures,” she said.
The lab is a collaboration between SAP Next-Gen and UCT’s School of IT, a joint initiative which incorporates the Department of Information Systems in the Faculty of Commerce and the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Science.
SAP Next-Gen is a purpose-driven innovation community supporting SAP’s commitment to the 17 United Nations Global Goals for sustainable development and an innovation platform for SAP’s over 378 000 customers across 25 industries in more than 180 countries.
The platform leverages 3 500 educational institutions in 113 countries that are members of the SAP University Alliances and SAP Young Thinkers programmes, as well as startups, accelerators, tech community partners, purpose driven partners, venture firms, futurists, and over 80 SAP Next-Gen labs/hubs at universities, accelerators and SAP locations.
The SAP Next-Gen comes after the realization that by 2020, nearly half of the total workforce will be made up of millennials, the young, connected and tech-savvy demographic born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s.
Latest surveys indicate one of the biggest challenges for organisations will be engaging and retaining millennial workers.
Rosenberg said millennials were the most connected, informed and empowered generation in history. They founded many of the world’s most successful exponential organisations.
“There are great opportunities to engage with them and tap into their new way of thinking. Our SAP Next-Gen Labs enable companies to accelerate their innovation agendas, and link innovation to purpose, by leveraging the disruptive insights of millennials,” Rosenberg said.
Prof. Ulrike Rivett, Director of the School of IT, said the lab offered an opportunity for the university to contribute to solving meaningful problems in industry.
“Too often, interactions between business and our students are geared mainly towards recruitment,” he said.
About 85 percent of South African millennials believed business will have a positive impact on broader society, beating the global average of 76 percent.
South Africa’s young and talented millennial workforce is seen as ready to contribute in meaningful ways to overcoming the challenges ahead.
“We believe that by empowering young people and enabling them to expand their professional networks, we are giving them a launchpad to break beyond academic theory and gain real-life experience with the latest technology and business strategies,” says Professor Ingrid Woolard, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce.
The opening of the Next-Gen Lab at UCT is part of SAP’s broader skills development initiatives that include Africa Code Week, which in 2017 trained more than 1,3 million African youth in basic coding skills, and SAP Skills For Africa, which focuses on training and certifying selected graduates in a broad spectrum of SAP software and business solutions.
It has provided training and job placement opportunities for more than 560 consultants across several African countries.
In 2017, SAP launched the Africa chapter of the Women in Data Science (WiDS) scheme, an initiative of Stanford University in the United States aiming to encourage women to pursue careers in data science.
We have allocated five bursaries to women wishing to pursue postgraduate qualifications in data science, which will be awarded in 2018. The lab will also play a key role here as a meeting place for WiDS community members to come together and collaborate with their global peers via virtual conferences and other networking opportunities.
Mehmood Khan, Chief Operating Officer at SAP Africa, said South African educational institutions were striving to meet the challenges associated with fast-paced digital transformation and the demand for relevant skills.
“South Africa’s talent pool is relatively small, so most companies are competing for the same scarce skills,” Khan said.
Khan said interactions in the new lab would give companies an opportunity to gain some pre-recruitment insight into candidates and get a better idea of who among them would fit in the organisation.
It also helps universities close what is known as the ‘grad gap’, the disconnect between theoretical knowledge and real-life skills requirements.
“By having a physical presence on campus, SAP is able to work directly with academics, students, customers and partners to stimulate and accelerate innovation,” Khan said.
– CAJ News