As survivors of a global crisis, bright young professionals are entering the labor market equipped with new skills, fresh perspective, and boundless energy. These are the stories of recent graduates of the SAP Young Professionals program, who have good reason to celebrate as they establish their careers in a growing marketplace for SAP skills and digital jobs.

While many educational programs struggled with the complex demands of distance learning during the pandemic, the SAP Young Professionals program gained advantage in a digital environment by opening its online classrooms to tap into new markets and attract qualified, recent university graduates, who otherwise might not have been able to attend classes in-person. As a result of this expansion, SAP partners and customers in the evolving markets of Southern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa will now have access to a wider pool of qualified SAP consultants who are certified on SAP’s latest innovations.

For customers like Dangote Group, the largest conglomerate in West Africa and one of the largest on the African continent, working with SAP Young Professionals is a win-win opportunity for talent development. “At Dangote Group, we always encouraged young, talented professionals in our large transformational projects in Africa,” says Ramakrishna Potluri, head of IT and Business Applications at Dangote Refinery and Dangote Projects, Dangote Group. “We are happy to partner with the SAP Young Professionals program, which enabled us in recruiting bright, young minds who are trained in the latest SAP technologies and soft skills like design thinking to be readily deployed in our SAP Center of Expertise. This is a great program for our growing SAP talent requirements.”

Digital Skills Bridge the Gap to the Job Market

Having earned the sought-after professional designation of SAP associate consultant, graduates of the SAP Young Professionals program are skilled on the most recent versions of SAP software and career-ready for placement with SAP partners and customers in their region. The program boasts a job placement rate of 95% globally. To date, more than 3,220 people have graduated from the program since its inception in late 2012. The program is free of cost for its selected learners.

SAP is investing to increase the number of trained and certified SAP consultants in the SAP ecosystem to support customers with digital transformation. IDC estimates new employment in the ecosystem will rise to 1.6 million employees by 2024, up from 1 million in 2020. Of the 600,000 new employees added to the SAP ecosystem, 280,000 will be net-new consultant roles, making SAP skills a valuable commodity in the job market.

As a newly graduated SAP Young Professionals talent, Lama Alnuwaiser recently began her job at Accenture in Saudi Arabia. She says that the program’s three-month curriculum is very learning-intensive, with advanced training on SAP’s innovations. The SAP trainers supported each learner individually, despite the unusual demands of the pandemic.

“In these three months, SAP has provided us with a tremendous amount of knowledge, especially in the field of data science, which will bridge the gap between us and the labor market,” Alnuwaiser said in a speech at her virtual graduation ceremony. “SAP focused on us on a personal level, where they provided us with presentation, communication, and design thinking skills training.”

The pandemic forced many young people to reconsider what were originally deemed safe paths to career development and personal happiness. Among them is Hasan Örnek, an SAP Young Professionals talent in Turkey. “When the pandemic first hit, a cloud of uncertainty covered my life and I truly felt hopeless as a recent graduate,” Örnek recalled.

“Everything changed when I came across an article on how COVID-19 would shape the workforce of tomorrow, what new skills would emerge, and some recommendations to surviving in an environment full of uncertainty. This is when the SAP Young Professionals program stepped into my life for a journey that has transformed and prepared me for my professional life,” said Örnek, who is now employed by DetaySoft, an SAP partner in Turkey.

A Common Learner Profile Unites Diverse Cultures

There is a common learner profile for the talents that the SAP Young Professionals program attracts across geographies. The program is typically suited to recent university graduates with a technical or business background, depending on the track’s disciplines, who are either unemployed or underemployed in one of SAP’s focus markets. Rebecca Gloria Akello’s story echoes many of the common themes in the journeys of SAP Young Professionals.

Akello, who lives in Uganda, was underemployed, earning little money, and had few prospects for advancement in a volatile job market. Motivated and self-reliant, she had begun to study for her MBA with hopes that she could secure a better job. She was unfamiliar with SAP when she first saw an advertisement for the SAP Young Professionals program. “When I came across the program advert on LinkedIn, I thought to myself, ‘Okay this is going to be like any other internship or apprenticeship done by big corps for public relations.’” With little to lose, she applied to the program, driven by curiosity and a desire to meet new people, learn new concepts, and be exposed to new opportunities.

That intrepidity paid off for Akello, who received a job offer from an SAP customer following her graduation. At her virtual graduation ceremony, she underscored the intrinsic value of the SAP certifications and professional soft skills that she earned through the program. “We have been energized to strive towards our dreams relentlessly, and today we have been honored with our SAP certifications,” she said. “Our networks have also grown beyond local and regional borders.”

Accelerating Digital Skills Development on the African Continent

The SAP Young Professionals program has already trained more than 1,550 young people in Africa as part of SAP Skills for Africa, an SAP umbrella initiative focused on skills development and job creation. Training multi-country cohorts in a virtual setting, a necessity of the pandemic, has accelerated the expansion of the program’s footprint on the continent. In 2021 alone, talents from Senegal, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt, Angola, and Mozambique have graduated from the program.

Since mid-2019, SAP has been working with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH with the aim to jointly create 450 jobs for highly qualified personnel in the IT sector in 10 African countries over the course of three years. The cooperation project is part of the Special Initiative on Training and Job Creation and the develoPPP program that GIZ implements on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is executed by the SAP Training and Development Institute as part of the established SAP Young Professionals program.

In June, the SAP Young Professionals program achieved a new milestone with the graduation of its first-ever class in Portuguese-speaking Africa, comprising Angola and Mozambique. Constantin Zelenty, deputy head of Mission at the German Embassy in Angola, joined SAP customers, partners, and executives in celebrating the milestone with a virtual graduation ceremony. “In order for Angolan companies to grow and succeed in our modern age, they need to harness the transformative power of digital technologies along with rightly skilled talent,” he said. “We hope this may be the first of many groups of graduates who can apply their expertise in service of Angola’s ambitions for the modern digital economy.”

About the Project

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has set up the develoPPP programme to foster private sector participation to the point where business opportunities and development policy initiatives overlap. To this end, BMZ offers financial and technical support to companies that want to do business or have already started operating in developing and emerging countries. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH acts as one of the two official partners implementing the program on behalf of BMZ. For more information, visit www.developpp.de.

The project is supported by the BMZ’s Special Initiative on Training and Job Creation. The Special Initiative, which operates under the brand Invest for Jobs, supports German, European, and African companies in investment activities that have a high impact on employment in Africa. The objective is to create good jobs and training opportunities and to improve working conditions in the following African partner countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt (in preparation), Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, and Tunisia. For more information, visit www.invest-for-jobs.com/en.