Academy Cube Filling the Skills Gap

Jim Hagemann Snabe at the Academy Cube launch, CeBIT 2013 (Photo: Wolfram Scheible / SAP AG)
Jim Hagemann Snabe at the Academy Cube launch, CeBIT 2013 (Photo: Wolfram Scheible / SAP AG)

CeBIT is rightly touted as the world’s largest technology trade fair. Thousands of attendees swarmed this year’s event in Hanover, Germany, as they do every year. What better place to experience the latest offerings from the world’s top vendors of everything from enterprise software to consumer electronics? Though CeBIT veterans abounded – some boasted of hitting their 10th or 15th event milestone – a large number of young people were also present, clearly reveling in the technology-laden atmosphere.

But as they toured the halls featuring the brightly lit stands of SAP, Microsoft, and a host of other major technology companies, some of these young visitors may have found it bittersweet. With unemployment rife across many European countries, the chances of joining the ranks of the tech giants are not particularly high.

Snabe and Kroes announce Academy Cube

CeBIT 2013 was therefore a fitting venue to introduce a new initiative which goes right to the heart of this problem: Academy Cube. Announced jointly by SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe and European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, Academy Cube aims to tackle the problem of unemployment among young professionals in Europe by up-skilling and matching job candidates with job offers at partner companies. Students can view their career options in the IT and manufacturing sectors in Europe and use the Academy Cube’s e-learning platform to acquire the skills they need for their chosen career path.

The day before the Academy Cube was announced at CeBIT, the European Commission launched a Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs at a conference in Brussels. The Grand Coalition is an EU-wide, multi-stakeholder partnership to address up to 900, 000 job vacancies expected to exist in the ICT sector in Europe by 2015.

Next page: What is Academy Cube?

SAP’s Ian Kimbell demonstrates the Academy Cube e-learning platform (Photo: Sarah Kellman)
SAP’s Ian Kimbell demonstrates the Academy Cube e-learning platform (Photo: Sarah Kellman)

Academy Cube was the first of 15 initiatives to pledge their support of the Grand Coalition at the conference. SAP represented this program on behalf of the growing list of Academy Cube partners, which include: LinkedIn, Microsoft, Robert Bosch GmbH, and Software AG. On the SAP side, the Academy Cube program is jointly led by Markus Schwarz (SAP Education), Stephan Fischer (SAP Applied Research), and Ann Rosenberg (SAP University Alliances). SAP Education is supporting the program by providing e-learning content modules and course curricula for relevant SAP solutions, including the new SAP HANA e-academy.

Also present at the Grand Coalition was Markus Schwarz, senior vice president and global head of SAP Education, who pledged his support for the initiative on behalf of SAP.

SAP Education and its partners have been delivering training for unemployed people in Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium for several years,” said Schwarz. “Participation in the Academy Cube program is a natural extension of the strong collaboration SAP Education already has in place with employment agencies and universities in Spain and Germany. We have a shared goal of placing young people into jobs in the technology sector by upgrading their skillsets.”

New e-learning platform for job seekers

At the heart of the Academy Cube initiative is a cloud-based internet platform that companies and institutions can use to provide e-learning courses and post job offerings. People looking for work can use the platform to get the skills and the qualifications high-tech jobs require. And potential employers know what young talents they’re potentially hiring. The courses deliver the quality they expect, and students follow standardized curricula. Partner universities participating in the Academy Cube can raise their profiles as well, as they can align themselves more closely to the job market.

The e-learning platform already has content in English and German, with more content to be added and additional languages to follow. Academy Cube runs on a learning management solution built by SuccessFactors, an SAP company.

Next page: Q & A with Markus Schwarz

Markus Schwarz and Neelie Kroes (Photo: European Commission)
Markus Schwarz and Neelie Kroes (Photo: European Commission)

Q & A with Markus Schwarz

Following the launch, Markus took a few moments to share his thoughts on the Academy Cube in a brief interview.

Academy Cube is an important initiative, and there was a great deal of interest during its launch at CeBIT. Can you tell us more about it?

Actually, let me first tell you a little bit about the problem we are trying to solve. We see a growing skills gap, especially in ICT in Europe where many more professionals are needed. At the same time, we also have high unemployment rates among young academics, especially in southern Europe. So the Academy Cube is a contribution to really match these two issues: to help fill the skills gap and to find work for the unemployed, especially unemployed academics within the disciplines known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

The Grand Coalition event you attended in Brussels served as a curtain-raiser for the Academy Cube launch at CeBIT. Can you share some more details from the event?

There were different initiatives presented to help close this gap, and the Academy Cube was just one of them. But it received a great deal of attention at the event, because it’s a very tangible initiative which is already live today. It is unique because it combines content from multiple partners – and not only from SAP but also industry partners. And it combines up-skilling and e-learning with “matchmaking” between job seekers and hiring companies. It was a really wonderful event.

There was much talk of the e-learning content around this initiative. What role does SAP Education play in this regard?

SAP Education has a great deal of e-learning content, which is a learning method that’s gaining a lot of traction. We provided some important pieces to this curriculum, as did our partners. And as a co-sponsor of the Academy Cube for SAP, I am also personally committed to this initiative.

Next page: E-learning platforms have 70% success rate

The demo of the Academy Cube e-learning platform was a highlight of the launch. Are people able to access it yet?

It’s available right now, and we already have the first learners from Spain on the platform. There’s still a lot more to do in terms of adding functionality to enable the real matchmaking. We’re also in the process of finding additional content partners to enrich the body of content already on the platform.

This initiative is not exactly new territory for SAP Education. What are some of the similar initiatives you’ve been supporting in recent years?

We have several initiatives where we collaborate with job agencies to up-skill unemployed people and bring them into SAP jobs. This started after the first economic crisis in Germany. Together with the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (German Federal Employment Agency), we brought thousands of people into jobs. We also have significant initiatives targeting young people at universities in Spain and Belgium.

But what’s really important to mention is this: when you look at these initiatives and the placement success rates, they’re all above 70%. This means anyone who attends these courses has a 70% chance of finding a job afterwards. This is proven. It was this success that led us to start thinking more broadly: why not really scale this up in one platform for Europe and offer it to all European countries?

What are your personal wishes for the success of this initiative?

The placement success rate will really be the ultimate indication of whether the Academy Cube has value for unemployed students looking for jobs. This will also be a huge win for the participating companies that are desperately looking for talented youth who have these skills. So, a placement rate above 70% would be a tremendous success for all involved.