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Stuart Browne 11-Oct-2022 12:54:10 5 min read

Elephants, rooms and why our education system sucks

IT education sucks.

At least it does in the UK.

20 years ago, we used to teach kids IT stuff in schools like Excel. Word and PowerPoint.

These were important base skills, but today they're almost as basic as English and Maths in modern work environments. We didn't even do a great job of it. They level of skill that most 16 year olds gained from a UK GCSE in ICT - as it was then called - hardly scratched on mainstream Excel Functions or Pivot Tables.

But as luck would have it, the whole syllabus was changed 7 or 8 years ago because we needed more people who could code. Other countries had been doing this for some time and now had swathes of experienced software developers underpinning their economy.

So we switched ICT for Computer Science and inspire kids to learn things like Python.

Coding is hard.

And not everyone has the aptitude to code.

The net result - we turned a whole generation of people off learning IT.

Luckily though, bright kids today can YouTube how to use basic IT packages like Excel, and babies now exit the womb genetically able to swipe, like and one-handedly add wizard's beards to cats on Snapchat.

But there's a hole.

IT doesn't just on these extremities of coding in Python and JavaScript OR using PowerPoint.

Every business of every size uses IT systems to do what they do - run business processes like finance, sales, stock control, purchasing, staffing and repairs.

And a whole ecosystem of systems exist to enable business to run their processes - generally with 3 letter acronyms like ERP, CRM or HCM.

Today, most of the things you've used, consumed, heard, seen, worn or travelled on were only part of your life because of an ERP system.

But go and grab a Business Studies graduate today (go on...) and ask them what ERP is.

Go and grab an IT graduate and ask them what ERP is.

Blank stares.

In 2019 I presented to 100 MBA students at Manchester Uni on Entrepreneurship. Having won a couple of business growth awards, I was approached to tell my story from education (mine wasn't the best) to building a successful business that is involved in tech sector.

They were expected Apps or AI, MVPs and double-sided business models.

Instead, they got ERP.

15 of the 100 or so MBA students knew what ERP was.

Hold that thought.

MASTER of BUSINESS Administration - people who will go on to define business models, create business value, optimise enterprise performance, and race up the corporate ladders across the FTSE100.

Masters are leaving University with an 85% knowledge hole that ERP is even a thing.

Once again...

Every business uses ERP systems to run their business, yet the majority of business and IT graduates don't even know that ERP exists.

I had the fortune in 2018 to visit a load of local primary schools to talk about IT, speaking to year 6 students (aged 9-10). I took my ZX Spectrum and Apple Newton with me so that they could marvel and laugh at the past.

But we mainly talked about IT examples they could relate to...

 

  • How does a checkout know what price your pizza is? Does the price "live" in the Bar Code or somewhere else?
  • How do McDonalds know how many burgers to order? Do they order more for a weekend than on a Monday? Do they order more in school holidays?

 

The teachers looked at each other - eyes wide open like frightened horses - hoping I wouldn't pick on them to answer these obvious questions.

Imagine if you could educate kids aged 10 that all businesses run ERP systems - and that they're actually quite straightforward.

People who work in ERP don't need to be able to code. Some do, but most don't.

It's an underworld of the IT industry that you only know about when you know about it.

But ERP has a high demand for skills, with a low supply of people due to an ageing workforce and lack of an education enabled supply chain of ERP talent.

You can read more about this in our Skills Apocalypse Research Report.

ERP also pays well.

Like, really well.

The 90th percentile 'ERP' salary in the UK is £87,500. The 10% percentile ERP salary is £33,500.

So, bottom-end ERP salaries are 30% higher than the average UK salary.

Source: ITJobswatch

But nobody knows ERP exists.

In June 2020, when we were all sat at home wondering if we'd survive, a few of us at Resulting were discussing this phenomenon on Zoom.

And we decided to do something about out - play our little part.

We started to write an educational course dubbed internally ERP Apprentice. Four of us emptied our heads of everything we'd learned about ERP over 20+ years and created an easy to understand, comprehensive introduction to ERP.

It was written so our kids, or our Mums could understand it.

This meant going right back to basics and answering questions like "what's a business process?" or "what's a database?"

The guiding principle was this:

"Give anybody enough background knowledge to apply for a junior ERP job and at least get an interview, and possibly kick-start their ERP career."

The result was a 70,000 word guide that 18 months later (we've done this alongside our day jobs!) is now a Micro-Site.

  • If your kids are struggling to work out what when they leave school, college or University...
  • If you have business experience and had given up on an IT career because coding is too difficult...
  • If you do something boring in finance, logistics, sales, purchasing, stock control, maintenance or HR and fancy a career change...
  • If your company has asked you to work on an implementation of SAP, Oracle, Infor, Sage, MS Dynamics, IFS, Success Factors, Ariba, Coupa, Workday or QAD...

 

.....then make yourself a drink, find a quiet space, and go visit https://www.resulting-it.com/erp-fundamentals

 

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Stuart Browne

Stuart has held leadership roles in the SAP ecosystem over an 18 year period, spanning consultancy, delivery management, practice development, sales, marketing and analyst relations. With an eclectic mix of skills and one of the largest SAP networks in the UK, Stuart has established a formidable reputation that has enabled Resulting to guide SAP customers through complex challenges.