The skills shortage: old news yet still touchy and taboo in some quarters. Fingers of blame have been simultaneously pointed at both tertiary institutions and the industry, urging them to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

The industry’s typical response to this has been to launch a myriad of “tailor-made” training programmes where graduates coming into the company receive everything from theoretical to on the job training.
Jacqui Scorgie, channel manager: Softline Accpac, says that for these programmes to add real value, however, they have to go beyond “stopping the immediate skills gap” – equipping graduates with the foundation they need for a long-term career in the IT industry.
Scorgie says that Softline Accpac has been proactive in addressing the issue of skills by developing its own Accpac Professional Consultant (APC) programme.
“This is an initiative we came up with to address the shortage of and desperate demand for Accpac consultants in the marketplace.”
She explains that these consultants are critical for business; being employed by the company’s resellers/channel partners to implement Accpac solutions, as well as provide ongoing support to their client base. In this way, Softline ACCPAC’s need for skills mirrors that of numerous other companies in the market: there just aren’t enough people to do all the work.
Where Softline ACCPAC differs in its initiative to address this challenge, however, is in its approach. Instead of making the trainees the starting point for devising its programme, the company approached its partners for feedback, finding out what they needed from their Softline Accpac resource. This meant that certain requirements and goal posts were put in place from the outset, improving the solution provider’s chances of developing the right people for the job and guaranteeing they would stay.
“Based on this feedback, all prospective candidates have an accounting/commerce/IT educational background. We also undertook to source the right calibre of people on behalf of the partners who wanted to participate, so that there was hardly any work involved from their side.”
The partners are thus directly involved throughout the process – essentially choosing one of the candidates put forward and sponsoring their training.
“Developing the training course proved to be one of the most challenging aspects. We knew that we needed to equip these candidates with far more than just IT skills. Our standard certified consultant training provided us with the ideal basis for this. We then added in additional components such as extensive query and indexing database training,” says Scorgie.
The “human” elements – everything from stress management to project management – were not neglected either.
“This is critical to ensure long-term success and both personal and professional growth, as well as going a long way in preparing the candidates for the realities of the job,” says Scorgie.
The final practical element of the course is invaluable in making it completely holistic. At the end of the three week training, the reseller employs their candidate, effective immediately, as a consultant.
With the first group of these consultants being employed for three months now, positive feedback has shown the value of their embarking on an identified and specialised career path.