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How SYSPRO is working to address the industry skills gap

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With an ageing ecosystem and valuable legacy knowledge leaving the industry without knowledge transfer having taken place, it’s no secret that the manufacturing industry faces a skills gap challenge. It’s incumbent on everyone in the industry to do their part to address this skills gap and ensure that we introduce young talent into the ecosystem and enable knowledge transfer from skilled industry veterans.

Unfortunately, a university degree is not a guarantee of employment – research shows that new graduates, many with Honours and Masters degrees, can struggle to find work, with their lack of foundational workplace skills cited as one of the reasons for this. However, interns are far more likely to find permanent employment because of valuable exposure to a real-world work environment.

Another challenge for the manufacturing sector is an ageing ecosystem where knowledge is lost when skilled workers retire or leave the sector without having mentored the next generation. And while we’d love to see every manufacturer at the cutting edge of technology deployment, the reality is that legacy programmes are still widely in use across the sector, operated using skills that are no longer taught in classrooms. This makes internship programmes even more important to enable that crucial skills and knowledge transfer.

Meeting industry needs

Recognising that there’s a skills mismatch between the learned classroom skills of university graduates and the requirements for workplace-ready employees, SYSPRO has introduced an internship programme to bridge this gap by aligning the needs of employers with those of recent graduates looking for opportunities within the industry. Our goal is to meaningfully contribute to growing the expertise within the industry while making sure we are meeting marketplace requirements.

The need exists, both for the manufacturing industry, but also for graduates looking for ways to make themselves more employable. The figures speak for themselves – in 2022, we received 4,500 applications from talented young graduates. The demand for this programme has grown exponentially since it started in 2016, and in 2023, we have 20 graduates placed in our programme.

For any internship programme to succeed, it’s important that it meets a need within the industry. And this is why our internship programme has evolved since it began. Initially, the programme focused on classroom learning with a small exposure to on-site involvement. However, we recognised that to produce workplace-ready potential employees, we needed more on-site involvement.

Now, the programme offers five months of intensive classroom training covering not only technical and product skills, but also vital soft skills and presentation skills across a wide range of content areas. Our interns then spend two months within the SYSPRO ecosystem, doing job shadowing across several of our corporate divisions before they are placed for on-site experience within our partner and customer ecosystem.

This is our map for the process of developing a graduate or intern, enabling them to execute tasks assigned to them in the work environment, through training and mentorship. In this regard, we have expectations not only of the intern, but also of the partner or customer that we place them with. Our criteria include a regular three-way check-in with us, the intern and their on-site mentor or manager. It’s all about equitable feedback and making sure that we encourage crucial conversations and build a level of rapport and transparency with the partner or customer, because they will likely be the future employer for the intern.

Each intern represents a significant investment of time and resources, so the selection process is rigorous to ensure that the right interns are selected for placement. There are multiple selection rounds, including presentation and panel interview sessions before the final selection is made. Even with the best intentions, it doesn’t always work the way we intend it to, but to date, just 13% of the initial intake has failed to complete the internship.

The results speak for themselves

In seven years, we have produced more than 100 interns, and 60% are still placed and working within the industry, with nearly all working at SYSPRO, or with SYSPRO partners and customers, which is a testament to the demand for the skills in the industry.

It goes without saying that we could not run a successful internship programme without the invaluable support of our partner and customer networks, who take the time, energy and commitment to mentor and guide our interns in their work environments. We have also successfully partnered with the industry’s MICT SETA, which has co-funded this programme and worked closely with several universities. With these ongoing partnerships, we are confident that the SYSPRO internship programme will continue to produce industry-ready graduates who will offer long-term value in the manufacturing industry.

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