First-in-Africa lab harnesses talents of millennials First-in-Africa lab harnesses talents of millennials
UCT and SAP have joined forces to build digitally educated “next generation talent” through the SAP Next-Gen Lab, the first of its kind in... First-in-Africa lab harnesses talents of millennials

UCT and SAP have joined forces to build digitally educated “next generation talent” through the SAP Next-Gen Lab, the first of its kind in Africa. It will be hosted by UCT’s School of Information Technology, a joint initiative between the Department of Information Systems in the Faculty of Commerce and the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Science.

Using the SAP Leonardo platform, a digital innovation system, the enterprise will foster a digitally educated, next generation talent pool with skills in both enterprise systems and digital innovation, with analytics, machine learning, blockchain technology and other expertise.

SAP Next-Gen Labs will connect customers to academic thought leaders and researchers, students, start-ups, business accelerators, tech community partners, venture firms, futurists and SAP experts to “reimagine the future”.

Retaining millennials

The backdrop is that by 2020 nearly half of the workforce will be made up of millennials – the young, tech-savvy demographic born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. However, the biggest challenge to organisations will be engaging and retaining millennial workers.

“Millennials are the most connected, informed and empowered generation in history,” says SAP Next-Gen’s senior vice-president and global head, Ann Rosenberg. “Many of the world’s most successful exponential organisations were founded by millennials. There are great opportunities to engage with them and tap into their new way of thinking.”

However, as this talent pool is relatively small, many companies are competing for the same scarce skills, said SAP Africa’s chief operating officer, Mehmood Khan. The interactions taking place in the new lab at UCT will give companies a good opportunity to gain some pre-recruitment insight into candidates to get a better idea of who will be a good fit for their organisation. This also helps the university close the ‘grad gap’, between theoretical knowledge and real-life skills requirements.

Non-traditional classroom

As such, the SAP Next-Gen Lab at UCT will foster closer collaboration between universities, students and the broader corporate sector. The newly launched lab on campus takes a non-traditional approach to the classroom environment.

Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Professor Ingrid Woolard, says, “We want to create a space where students can interact with companies and work on industry-related challenges, next generation projects and blue-sky ideas. It’s a co-creation and working space built on design-thinking principles to stimulate and encourage innovative thinking, collaboration and knowledge-sharing.”

“It’s a co-creation and working space built on design-thinking principles to stimulate and encourage innovative thinking, collaboration and knowledge-sharing.”

Professor Ulrike Rivett, director of the School of Information Technology, sees the lab as an opportunity for UCT to contribute to solving meaningful problems in industry.

“Too often interactions between business and our students are geared towards recruitment. While initiatives that assess the skills of students are important, these generally miss the opportunity of utilising the available pool of creative talent to co-create inventive solutions to real-world issues.”

From left: Prof Irwin Brown (HOD, Information Systems), De Wet Naude (regional director, SAP Next-Gen), Kwena Mabotja (regional director, SAP Next-Gen), Gwamaka Mwalemba, Assoc Prof Lisa Seymour, Prof Ulrike Rivett (School of IT), Assoc Prof Tessa Minter and Nicolas Maweni (marketing director, SAP Africa).

Gaining real-life experience

According to Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey, 84% of South African millennials believe business will have a positive impact on broader society, beating the global average of 76%.

Says Woolard, “South Africa’s young and talented millennial workforce is 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.”

This was endorsed by Professor Irwin Brown, head of UCT’s Department of Information Systems.

“Information Systems has many ongoing relationships with public sector entities, companies and NGOs where we collaborate to ensure that the curriculum of our programmes remains relevant. However, this initiative is different in that it extends the interaction to a partnership between industry players, students and academics that is mutually beneficial to all parties.”

Photo Michael Hammond

 

Source University of Cape Town

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