A digital skills gap has hit the technology industry. In 2022, 75% of companies worldwide reported talent shortages. And the issue becomes increasingly prominent with the OECD’s estimation that 1.1 billion jobs are liable to be radically transformed by technology in the next decade. Studies show that 43% of businesses worldwide are set to reduce their workforce due to this technology integration while other surveys point out that 80% of technology products and services will be built by those who are not technology professionals by 2024. In the end, it all comes down to this dilemma: the need for digitally skilled talent increases. But their number is notoriously limited.

For some people, this outlook is especially bitter. According to recent numbers, women hold only 26% of computing-related jobs today. And the number for people from ethnic minorities drops even lower. Accessing digital skills and securing a fulfilling, well-paid job in the tech industry often seems out of reach for them. “When I was young, I didn’t really know what I was passionate about,” says Karen Rodrigues from Brazil in a recent blog post on SAP Community. “The only thing I knew was that I wanted to get a job and earn money. My parents also had a specific idea of what my career should look like. So, I started my studies in business administration and accounting, got my degrees, and got my first job in this area.” For women like Rodrigues, a career in tech had never been up for debate.

Gender Stereotypes Are Often the Root

One of the reasons why women – or people of color for that matter – often don’t have a career in the IT industry in mind are gender stereotypes. When people think of the technology industry, they usually associate young White males with developer roles. These stereotypes often originate in the experiences and ideologies we encountered in our childhood and school years. And many of them are here to stay. The fact that the IT industry is much more diverse, both in terms of the workforce and the roles that exist within it, is often overlooked or not explored further. In Rodrigues’ case, it took an opportunity to turn her life around.

“I received an opportunity that would send me on a completely different path: SAP Academy,” the SAP mentor explains. “I asked myself, ‘Should I quit my job in accounting and do something different altogether?’ It was a hard decision.”

Rodrigues was brave enough to do it. “I decided to take the leap, but the transition into tech wasn’t easy. Back then, the industry was still very much dominated by men. I was the only woman, and I was judged because of that. I was told I talk too much, have a different style, and maybe wasn’t even suited to be in this area. But I was confident that this was the place for me. I wanted to be a woman in tech.”

She worked hard to show that she was competent and had the skills to succeed. “It is my belief that knowledge is power and the key to success. You must study and you have to take action to change your life,” she adds. “I am glad that there are opportunities to upskill.”

Many Make Use of SAP’s Digital Skills Initiative

One opportunity to gain the digital skills needed to succeed in what’s to come is SAP’s latest digital skills initiative. Launched in November 2022 with the goal of further lowering the barrier to accessing digital skills and reaching those who are currently underrepresented in tech, the initiative has been met with great interest. Around 4,000 women, people from ethnic minorities, or individuals from rural areas, for instance, have already applied online and started upskilling with SAP’s free and role-based learning resources. Following the completion of a course and thanks to SAP’s sponsorship of 10,000 free exam vouchers, they will be able to get a sought-after SAP Certification to help acquire a secure and well-paid job within the industry. And applications are still being accepted.

With 655,000 learners in 2021 and more than 1 million in 2022, SAP Learning hopes to bring a world-class learning experience to even more people with this initiative. But it doesn’t stop there. To take efforts further, SAP is actively seeking partners and customers to explore sponsorship and internship options for some candidates who pass this certification exam. This can also lead to a full-time employment opportunity. Many of those will also be made available on the new Career Corner in SAP Community, where 3 million members exchange on career advice and paths on a regular basis.

Employers Seek Tens of Thousands of Technology Consultants

As businesses rely on technology consultants to advise and manage the implementation of IT systems and provide guidance when training staff, the demand is set to increase in the coming years in this area. In the U.S. alone, there were more than 50,000 technology consultant job postings in the last year.*

To make a valuable contribution to upskilling future technology consultants, SAP has also launched a partnership with Coursera at the end of 2022. One hundred and ten million subscribers of all backgrounds can prepare for an entry-level SAP technology consultant certificate on Coursera’s Web site – no college degree or prior experience required. The certificate comprises seven courses, four of which are available today with the rest rolling out over the coming months. Altogether, the certificate can be completed in about five to six months and more than 9,000 Coursera subscribers have already enrolled in the courses.

“Never Too Late to Learn Something New”

“I have seen a lot of people who were waiting for the right moment to steer their lives in a new direction,” Rodrigues explains. “They were not ready for something new, or they were simply afraid. But living in the past is not good. Yesterday can’t do anything for you; today can. But I wish I had known that back then. I wish I had been more disciplined in the past. Time is valuable.”

Rodrigues was and still is curious. She set out to learn something new and built a successful work life as a woman in tech. She has navigated an industry that is still very much dominated by men and has fought against gender stereotypes with discipline and trust in her abilities. She never settles for less and that makes her a role model for many women worldwide. Her advice is loud and clear: “It’s never too late to learn something new. I can only encourage you to learn and to go for the next challenge. Strive for something higher, and you will grow – professionally but, most importantly, personally.”

You can read Rodrigues’ full blog post on her transition into the technology industry on SAP Community.

*Lightcast™ (2022, US-only), Job Postings report (September 2021 – September 2022). Retrieved October 2022.

Sabine Benz is global VP and head of Product Engagement at SAP Learning.