Developing The Right Skills: A Hidden Game-Changer To Tackle Today’s Challenges And Build A Bright Future

Marita Mitschein

A flood of reports, papers, and conferences have underscored the importance of developing the right skills for the ever-changing digital era. Our lines of business, industries, roles, and interests no longer matter; developing the right skills is critical for our individual success and – more importantly – for our teams, organizations, and even economies to build and secure prosperity for all.

The challenge is that building the right digital skills does not stop with your personal development or even that of your team or organization. It is our joint responsibility to help everyone build digital skills.

We all need to develop new skills, and we need to start now

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” —Malcolm X

Despite all the awareness of how the world of work and our required skillsets are changing, many individuals, companies, and educational organizations don’t see the urgency to act now. It will take time to harvest the fruits of a new approach for building the right skills, which will keep changing. This means we don’t have time to waste. We need to make this a strategic priority and start putting plans into action.

Building the right skills is a joint responsibility, much like the challenges we face with climate change. And yes, I do believe building digital skills is equally important to addressing climate change. Education and enablement are the keys to ensuring a bright future for current and future generations. Building the right digital skills now, across all jobs and organizations, is also a game-changer for tackling global problems such as climate change.

Technology enables us to change the way we work and live

Having worked in the tech field for over 40 years, I have witnessed the rapid speed of technology innovation and how it has continuously simplified our lives. Just imagine going back in time a mere 10 years: ordering your taxi with a phone call, struggling with foreign languages on business or personal trips; and waiting for a kiosk to open to get the latest newspaper. These are only a few day-to-day situations that have changed significantly thanks to technology.

It’s no longer just tech-savvy people who benefit from technology innovations. It’s all of us. Given all we’ve achieved with yesterday’s technology, there is no stopping what we can achieve with today’s and future technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and more, if we can leverage them for the benefit of individuals, the environment, the world, for all of us.

We are what is holding us back

Having responsibility for digital skill-building at SAP Southern Europe, Middle East, and Africa, this has been on top of my agenda for the past several years. I have attended conferences, written in various publications, done interviews on stage and on panels, made speeches, and held business and personal meetings with stakeholders. And while I find there’s more awareness now than several years back, taking action is still rare.

When I ask people why they are not more active regarding skill-building and enablement, I often hear the same answers: someone else in my organization is taking care of this; I listened to this inspiring podcast/read this great book/found this interesting article and am happy to share; aren’t you scared of all this new technology? Frankly, I am more scared of what will happen if we do not leverage technology than if we do. And unfortunately, it will not be enough to rely on our HR department to help us develop the right skills, nor will sharing your inspiring podcasts, books, and articles suffice.

Skill development is a joint responsibility

Developing digital skills begins with preparing our children for the world of work while they’re in school and university. Companies happily welcome new talents and benefit from the knowledge and skills they bring. And sometimes we wish they would bring different skills. Yet, we are still not actively participating in and supporting this skill-building at early stages. Not only as parents but also in our roles as employees or entrepreneurs. The good news is that all of us can do this.

Companies, for instance, can create partnerships with schools or universities to provide students with training and certification opportunities during their academic years. Extracurricular collaborations like these will help students bridge the gap between university and workplace, find a suitable job after graduation, and immediately add value to organizations. Organization need access to talent as soon as possible, and can generate even more value by influencing students’ curriculum, challenging them with real-life use cases, and otherwise preparing them for the corporate world. This makes it much easier to attract the right talent into an organization from an early stage for their mutual benefit.

Individuals can help build these partnerships by encouraging their organization’s leadership to get involved. Sharing our knowledge with youth, slowly introducing them into the world of work, and fostering their excitement for their future careers are important steps, which each and every one of us can and should do. You can start today by calling your university and discussing these ideas with them.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

When I was appointed eight years ago to lead the global investment and market acceleration plan for SAP in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, I discovered that MENA has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, rising to 32% in some countries in the region. However, it is also a region with tremendous opportunities, full of well-educated youth with the aspirations and drive to turn the region’s challenges into opportunities.

While I was developing the strategy for this growth plan, I made sure to embed knowledge development and enablement, not to only succeed as an organization but also help local youth thrive. This is how the SAP Training & Development Institute was born in Dubai in 2012.

On the foundation of public-private-academic partnerships, we have created initiatives to drive digital skill-building. This has led to a quadruple win: local youth find a job, our customers and partners find brilliant talent, our company enhances its ecosystem, and the economies in these countries benefit in their fight against youth unemployment.

Our flagship digital skill-building initiative for young professionals was originally created in MENA for MENA, and it has since been adopted globally as a best practice. For us, this investment has paid off, and our programs are growing year on year, which allows us to help more individuals and organizations to thrive in this digital era. While our programs are specifically designed around empowering talents for SAP innovations, the concept is simple and can be adapted for any job profile or industry. What are you waiting for?

Build your own skills: Join our Knowledge Transfer Webinar on September 17 and find out how to build, integrate, deploy, and operate an intelligent application with the capabilities of SAP Data Intelligence.


Marita Mitschein

About Marita Mitschein

In support of SAP’s commitment to close the digital skills gap, Marita Mitschein is leading the SAP Training & Development Institute and overseeing all capacity build initiatives across EMEA South. Marita is Senior Vice President Digital Skills EMEA South, Managing Director SAP Training & Development Institute and Member of SAP’s Global Executive Leadership Team.