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Employers and COVID-19: 'Cloud skills are in demand'

October 2020

Luminate asks employers for insights into how they have responded to the challenges and opportunities of recruiting graduates during the coronavirus pandemic

The most striking thing about the way employers have dealt with the pandemic has been how quickly the world has 'become digital', with recruitment, onboarding, team meetings and training all moving online, explains Lindsey Rowe, head of People & Programmes Office at SAP UK & Ireland.

How has COVID-19 affected your graduate recruitment plans this year? Where recruitment has continued, how have you adapted - for example, moving processes online - so that you can go ahead?

We are very thankful that our undergraduate and graduate recruitment plans have not been disrupted this year in light of COVID-19. If anything, this year we have seen an increased focus on the value and importance of early talent, not just locally in the UKI market, but globally. Our CEO himself started his career as a working student and his passion to this topic is very clearly felt across the organisation.

With all of our recruitment and onboarding needing to move virtually, as a technology company we have been fortunate to already have in place world-class solutions and applications to make this process easier.

As we look to 2021 and beyond for our student recruitment, we will be diversifying even further by leveraging SA's investment in the Apprentice Levy, allowing for us to offer degree apprenticeships within some of our largest partners and eventually SAP.

We've seen how COVID-19 has disrupted the global job market, so we are committed to helping graduates survive and thrive.

Have you offered online work experience/internships to students - and how successful have these been? If not, is it something you'd consider in future?

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact on our graduate intern programme this year. But while it has meant that the way in which we run the programme may be different, we are extremely proud to have taken on 60 interns from 30 different universities as part of our 2020/21 intake. The programme itself represents over £1million of investment in our future workforce and skills development. Running for ten years and ranked 41st in the country, third in Tech, based on RMP Experience Reviews, it was really important for us to ensure we continue this programme, despite these challenging times.

While we have needed to onboard our undergraduates virtually, with inductions and intros to different teams online, we have not faltered in the amount of incredibly senior involvement in the programme. Executives from all levels have volunteered their time to support and drive future talent; a unique element of our programme and something that has continued, albeit virtually. Our SAP Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse has also been invaluable in providing real-time feedback from employees, including new joiners, on what’s working, what isn't and how we can help.

Lastly, we've benefited from harnessing the power of groups such as the ISE which, as a student and graduate community, has helped us to discuss best practices and collaborate on ways of working through this new virtual working world.

How closely do you work with universities and how would you like to see this relationship develop to ensure future graduates are well prepared and have the right skills for the post COVID-19 workplace?

We work closely with a lot of universities and industry bodies and associations. We're currently working in partnership with other employers for the Classof2020 - a free online learning platform linking graduates and businesses together. Like the platform's very premise, we've seen how COVID-19 has disrupted the global job market, so we are committed to helping graduates survive and thrive as they enter this new uncertain world of work.

What has been most striking about the pandemic is how quickly the world has 'become digital'. At the very visible level, we're having meetings via Zoom and joining online educational courses, but this is all underpinned by SAP's purpose; we help businesses with their efforts to digitally transform. As consumers become more digital, the businesses providing these services also need to evolve, and this relates directly to the skills that will be in demand in a post COVID-19 world.

One of SAP's core offerings is SAP HANA, whereby businesses migrate to this platform in order to manage significant technological change. The skill most required from our teams to work on these projects is cited as cloud skills (59%), highlighting the growing demand for technology-based knowledge and understanding. As such, we are actively ensuring that our graduates are equipped with the growing level and types of skills needed for the direction in which the world is moving in.

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