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With IDC predicting that the global SAP partner community will grow to $260 billion by 2024, in turn creating 280,000 brand new consultant roles, Alp Geckalan, Head of the SAP Digital Skills Center, and Stephen Brady, Talent Attraction Manager at SAP, address how EMEA South plans to expand its talent pool and tackle the digital skills gap.

Why is the digital skills gap in EMEA South such a challenge?

Alp Geckalan: “When we look at our existing skillset in the partner ecosystem, 85% is On-Premise certified and only 15% is certified in the Cloud. If we want to achieve our cloud growth strategy, we need to transform the skillset across our teams.”

Stephen Brady: “The technology market is competitive. When we then narrow that down further into the SAP ecosystem, it becomes even more competitive. Across a region like EMEA South, where we’re an emerging market, you’ve got various other restrictions that come into play. In a market where there is a limited number of people, we’ve still got to be selective. We’ve got to maintain quality and maintain a bar so that we not only find the right talent but we select the best talent for our open roles.”

Alp Geckalan: “We also have different socio-economic situations in our region: we have Africa, we have the Middle East, these are the emerging markets where SAP is penetrating the market. But it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation, you have to have the skill set to implement our technology, otherwise, you end up selling far beyond what you can implement, which creates issues further down the line. In this new era, cloud is a different game plan that markets in our region need to adapt to.”

How can we meet the demand and recruit the right talent?

Stephen Brady: “We’ve got to work closely with the hiring managers within the business as we see this as being a shared responsibility: it can’t just fall to the recruiter. To attract the best talent, the proposition has to be attractive. If you think about it from a job seeker’s perspective, they’re going to be looking for typically three things: the right company, the right role, and the right manager and culture. Once we have a good sense of what the talent market looks like and we’ve researched that, then we can more actively start reaching out and having those warm conversations with the relevant talent in the market.”

What are the key digital skills initiatives we have in place to help recruit and train new talent?

Alp: “The Digital Skills Center (formerly known as SAP Training & Development Institute) was established back in 2012 to create capacity for SAP partners and customers. We’re focusing on different target audiences when it comes to our programmes – such as university students who are close to their graduation, fresh university graduates who are unemployed or underemployed (at whom the SAP Young Professionals Program is targeted) as well as early talents looking for a career shift (which is where the SAP Digital Skills Training Program comes in). The programme we have in place for university students is called the SAP Dual Study Program and there are more than 38 universities across EMEA South taking part. We’re training between five and six hundred students a year and many of them are ending up in our ecosystem (as an intern or in a permanent role). Through SAP certification we give them SAP skills so they can enter into our ecosystem before they go to the competition.”

And what is the SAP Young Professionals Program (YPP)? How can it benefit partners?

Alp: “The SAP Young Professionals Program focuses on fresh graduates. We choose no more than 30 people and we put them through an intensive assessment process: we train them on the latest SAP technologies, they earn two global SAP qualifications and after that, we provide them with soft skills training – such as presentation, communication, design thinking, business model innovation skills – so that when they graduate, they become immediate assets for the partners as SAP Associate Consultants.”

What results are we achieving?

Alp: “In the last 10 years, we have trained more than 5,000 people on SAP technology and now 95% of them are happily working within our ecosystem. If I take Greece as an example – because it fits so well with our cloud strategy – there were zero certified public cloud consultants. And in the last two years, we’ve created more than 100 consultants.

“When it comes to the emerging markets when it comes to untapped markets, EMEA South is such a great region to introduce these programmes and we can see the immediate return of our investment.”

What can we expect in 2023?

Alp: “The Digital Skills Training Program is brand-new for partners this year. Hiring and training junior people is a challenge and takes time to get them to the point where they’re billable and partners can see the return on their investment. This new programme compresses the time it takes to do that: we will train those recruits in a very intensive boot camp and make them ready as a junior consultants within six to eight weeks.”

  • If you would like to learn more you can watch this video from minute 35 to minute 46. Click this link to access the video: CSK_FULL_TIMELINE (




SAP Young Professionals Program Success for PwC:

Tom Cools, Partner of PwC Advisory in France and Mahgreb, sits in PwC’s Casablanca office in Morocco, working on large finance transformation projects. He oversees the SAP Alliance for all of North Africa and is also the Managing Partner of a technology acceleration centre that PwC has been building over the last two years in Tunisia.

He explains how the SAP Young Professionals Program helped it to deliver on its new strategy.

“In 2021, PwC launched its new strategy ‘the new equation’ which is based on building trust and delivering sustained outcomes. To support that new strategy we had to become a much more technology-enabled firm. We did that through building new acceleration centres: we had to expand very rapidly and ensure we had the right skills and capabilities in place within the team to run the centres.”

But Tom and the team were struggling to find the right resources. They had a broad and varied range of needs due to creating new and different modules and team structures. The SAP Young Professionals Program helped them to recruit for those new structures ‘very rapidly’ by integrating their own specific needs into the programme, effectively tailoring it to PwC.

“Overall the programme has been extremely helpful for us,” adds Tom. “It’s helped us to recruit quickly and has been an accelerator for creating market awareness for PwC in Francophone Africa. We’re fully committed to the African continent and fully committed to training and hiring new resources.”
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