SAP Canada scholarship aimed at IT undergrads

Last month was the deadline for submitting applications for a scholarship from SAP Canada that, in an effort to address the country’s IT skills shortage, recognizes undergraduate students in IT-related areas of study.

The SAP Canada Scholarship Program will award 10 students pursuing degrees in business, computer science, mathematics or engineering with $5,000 each to help defray tuition costs.

More than 200 applications were received, a surprising number compared to the modest expectation of 30 given the program’s infant stage, said the company’s director of corporate communications, Emile Lee.

Through the program, SAP is “really trying to promote the up-and-coming students to really take a career and an interest” in those subjects, said Lee.

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Applications were accepted from full-time students starting their second or third year of study at an eligible university or college in Canada. Furthermore, candidates are evaluated on academic performance, quality of application, and community involvement.

The community involvement forms part of the criteria because, said Lee, “we want to also try to encourage and really say that community involvement is an important and integral part of that leadership of tomorrow skills.”

SAP Canada, for the past three years, has been involved in an “aggressive” corporate citizenship strategy, according to Lee, which essentially sees its employees giving back to the communities in which they live and work, with an educational focus on kindergarten to grade 12. For instance, SAP employees are sponsored to take a day from work to volunteer “in a hands-on approach” with groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada , Ronald McDonald House Charities of Canada , and Junior Achievement of Canada.

“Every year, we’ve ramped up more and more of what we do in our communities,” said Lee, of the genesis of the new scholarship program. But other factors have been drivers behind the program. For example, shifts in the economy have meant that Canada has had to consider its competitive position on the global platform, said Lee.

The scholarship program aligns with SAP’s University Alliances program as well, wherein faculty members are provided tools and resources to teach students the technical skills as well as the role that technology plays in integrating business processes and strategic thinking.

SAP also maintains relationships with universities and colleges across the country to recruit talent, and provide internships with the Montreal and Toronto Labs to work on development projects. And, said Lee, an on-site Masters degree course is currently in the works.

The new scholarship program, said Lee, serves to “reward [students] for pushing that agenda forward in terms of trying to get more and more Canadian students interested in and pursuing careers in those fields.”

Bernard Courtois, president and CEO of Mississauga, Ont.-based Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) , said the scholarship program is interesting from the perspective that the focus is not solely on computer science, and promotes the “other facets of education that can lead to a career in technology.”

Besides, today’s employers, said Courtois, seek candidates who present the right package for success because “the future is on a more rounded education that has technology combined with the right business skill.”

Courtois said although a recipient group of 10 may appear small, the IT skills shortage is a significant need that can’t be addressed by one company alone, and that “the important thing is this sends a message, and that message is it goes well beyond the 10 people that get chosen.”

SAP is not the only company giving back to the student community, and ITAC is currently doing an inventory of such programs to get a sense of what’s missing among those programs should companies want to get further engaged in corporate citizenship.

The 200 submissions have now been whittled down to 16 and are currently being reviewed by a committee of 10 SAP employees comprising various levels and departments of the organization. The chosen 10 recipients will be revealed in the next two weeks, just in time for the start of the school year.

SAP plans to continue the scholarship program, but Lee said it’s difficult to say whether it will be expanded to award more students in the future.

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