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Education must adapt to changing employer needs, says Minister

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Universities and colleges need to adapt to the changing needs of employers and the rapid growth in the skills needed to take advantage of information and communication technologies, says Minister of Education Naledi Pandor. 

The Minister was speaking at this week’s launch of the South African leg of the Tertiary Education Programme (TEP), an alliance of more than 700 tertiary institutions around the world involved in teaching practical, high-level, IT skills to students from all disciplines. The TEP is driven and supported by business software leader SAP.
“Over the last decade we have expanded the number of students in higher education significantly, but we have only just begun to make further education attractive to students and employers,” says Minister Pandor.
“Universities and colleges have to work together with employers to deliver work-relevant and work-based learning. To share responsibility, to share funding, and to share the opportunity for success,” she says.
The only programme of its kind sponsored by a major IT company, the TEP enables schools of business, IT, and engineering to use SAP solutions in the academic environment. The TEP supports the development of undergraduate and graduate curriculums that promote the teaching and understanding of integrated business processes.
The programme provides university faculty members with the tools and resources necessary to teach students how technology can enable integrated business processes and strategic thinking – and gives students the skills to add immediate value to the market. Faculty members are not expected to teach SAP software but are able to use it to reinforce and provide real-life examples of concepts they are already teaching.
The TEP currently benefits more than 130 000 students around the world. The introduction of the programme in South Africa is aimed at providing first hundreds and, in time, thousands of students with globally competitive skills.
Speaking at the launch of TEP in South Africa, SAP South Africa MD Claas Kuehnemann says the most important outcome of the programme would be a generation of better qualified graduates that find it easier to get jobs and add value quickly in those jobs.
“SAP believes all companies have to play an active role in broader social and development challenges. Education is not only the key to social advancement, but also vital to keep South Africa innovative and competitive. SAP has a wealth of experience in science and technology education and through this programme we promote skills development by sharing our technology and solutions available for use in the classroom and in research.”
Kuehnemann adds that a further benefit for institutions participating in the TEP is further opportunities to collaborate with similar organisations around the world.
Amelia Maurizio, Director of the Global University Alliance Programme, says employers around the world now required a marriage of business and technology skills in graduates they recruit.
“SAP has been involved with this programme for several years and our experience with employer requirements continues to reinforce our view of the benefits of providing students with this marriage of skills,” she says.
Tertiary education institutions that are members of the programme gain access to the SAP Business Suite family of solutions, including SAP ERP. This comprehensive business software suite supports business, engineering, and information technology education programmes, enabling students to put classroom theory into practice through demonstrations, exercises and problem-solving, case studies, and research programs.
Through hands-on experience with SAP solutions, programme members gain insight into how technology can empower a business to optimize key processes such as accounting and controlling, human capital management, project planning, plant and materials management, and sales and distribution.
Faculty members use SAP software to reinforce and provide real-life examples of concepts. SAP analytical tools, for example, are used to teach students about decision-making. Process integration is taught by demonstrating the impact a single transaction has on a range of different business disciplines. Students can use case studies to identify business requirements and then configure an application to meet them. Strategy courses can use SAP software functions to define new business opportunities and organisational restructuring.
As a result of the TEP, more than 2 200 faculty members in 36 countries have become proficient in SAP technology and more than 130 000 students are participating in courses supported by SAP software.
The TEP is based on the mySAP Business Suite, with educational institutions able to access the Suite and the TEP-specific educational tools related to it via hosted services provided by SAP. Membership of TEP entitles tertiary institutions to professional development courses, faculty training, curriculum workshops, pre-built curriculum content, and the ability to network about issues of business integration with hundreds of other academics worldwide.
A number of tertiary education institutions in South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius, and Ethiopia are already in the process of applying for membership of TEP.