SAP’s new programme of innovation could lead to a skills gap, according to Sheffield Hallam University.

The university, which delivers postgraduate courses with SAP certifications, said that the company’s innovation plans for cloud computing, in-memory computing and mobility will generate a new skills requirement, on top of the need for core SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system skills.

“The pace of innovation has gathered momentum this year. This means there are skills needs that need to be managed and developed,” said Siavash Moshiri, consultant and SAP corporate master’s program leader at Sheffield Hallam University.

Other issues that Moshiri highlighted included a need for younger SAP professionals, as he said the overall SAP skills base was ageing.

Furthermore, he believes more UK SAP professionals are needed, as those from overseas have either gone to work in more emerging markets or returned to their home countries.

“Up to 2008, we used to get a lot of home students with considerable professional experience.

“We’ve now got a lot of students overseas joining the programme, [but skills are leaving the UK with the growth in] the emerging markets, people going back to their own countries and the recession,” Moshiri said.

Sheffield Hallam provides two MSc and one MBA course that come with an SAP certification, but Moshiri said that the academic qualification was necessarily the most useful part.

“We are talking about life-long skills. The kind of competencies and qualifications that will enhance their [students’] employability and growth as an individual professional,” he said.

Moshiri said that IT professioals needed expertise in the biggest enterprise systems on the market, but insisted that broader business, technology and management skills were vital.

“The need for other skills is important, for example, to possess a good understanding of what businesses are, and how you can innovate and transform them at a process level,” he said.

Sheffield Hallam University will be hosting its first stand at the UK & Ireland SAP User Group Conference 2011 in Birmingham on 22 to 22 November 2011.