SAP – which will participate in the Legion's Hiring Our Heroes Transition & Benefits Career Fair during the national convention (see below) – is one of those behind-the-scenes, nearly invisible information technology (IT) companies that touch many people's lives without their knowledge. With more than 230,000 business clients, the German firm "helps companies run better," said SAP Senior Vice President Diane Fanelli.
"We help companies run better by providing software that goes across the enterprise that can start from the customer relationship aspect, go into the back office – finance, HR (human resources), procurement), and then into other areas such as production, shop floor, things like that," Fanelli said, who works in SAP's U.S. headquarters office in Newtown, Pa. "It really goes across organizations, so it's not just for commercial enterprises, but government agencies as well."
In other words, SAP's software applications aid companies and organizations in supporting growth, preventing loss, maintaining proper inventory levels and more. "Over 74 percent of the world's GDP (gross domestic product) flows through SAP transactions," she said.
With SAP's far reach and huge customer base, it stands to reason that someone trained and certified to support their proprietary IT products would most valuable in the marketplace. There is, in fact, a growing need for such people, said Fanelli, and SAP is aiming to train a significant number of military veterans to help meet that need with their "Veterans to Work Program and Scholarship."
SAP launched the Veterans to Work initiative to help U.S. veterans "acquire the skills and training they need to be successful in today's IT workforce." The program provides training scholarships and certification programs on SAP market-leading solutions.
Fanelli, a former accountant, has become a technology convert and recommends employment in the high-tech industry for its untrammeled growth potential.
"Today, technology is in everything we do," she said. "It's in our mobile phones, it's in our cars – it's even in our washing machines – and it's going to be even more pervasive." Fanelli said SAP trained her, a self-admitted low-tech neophyte, in what was a completely alien discipline and gave her, thus far, nearly a 20-year career in the field. It is not surprising, therefore, that she recommends not only high tech as a career, but her company's in-house education in the field, especially for young military veterans.
Fanelli said the veteran training initiative was inspired by a dramatic growth in the company's product line. "We have new solutions that we're introducing into the marketplace. They're around new database and memory technology, mobility solutions and analytics," she said. "As we looked at the market, we realized that these solutions are going to have high-double digit or even triple-digit growth year after year through 2018. And, we realized that to be successful in not only selling these solutions, but to have our customers deploy and use them, we actually need trained resources in the marketplace.
"So, (we) said, let's marry a business need – which is what it is – with a group of people who are highly qualified, who have been trained and have all the right DNA and skill sets and give them an opportunity to have a career in technology. Those people would be those coming out of the military.
"I think everyone recognizes the commitment that veterans have, plus (they have) the ability to survive under pressure, the ability also to be quick learners, a high sense of responsibility and a strong work ethic. Those attributes are a great foundation for any employer, but when you add that to additional skills that these people are going to have by taking SAP's classes and getting certified, it's really bringing the two (veterans' attributes and employment opportunities in IT) together."
The Veterans to Work Program training curriculum was designed around the newest company products and services. "We selected courses that really aligned with the new business growth areas for SAP," Fanelli said.
Veterans are invited to learn about the program in detail and select areas of potential training interest online here .
"You don't have to take all the courses, just the ones you think you would like or would be most productive for you," Fanelli said.
Once oriented to the program, a veteran can then submit an online application for training. The link to the application is displayed on the orientation web page. The online application includes a number of eligibility screening questions, such as military work experience, educational background and awhether or not the veteran is willing to relocate and travel for work.
A phone interview with SAP's staffing partner firm follows the online application submission. If selected, the applicant, now candidate, is entitled to SAP training and proprietary certification free of charge and, Fanelli said, "help in (job) placement within the SAP ‘ecosystem.'"
On the issue of relocation, studies have noted that rural veterans are less likely to be willing to relocate than are urbanites or suburbanites. This can be problematic for some, Fanelli said. "In the world of technology, chances are that you're going to have to travel. So, not willing to do that is does limit (one's) ability in this marketplace."
While the need, in most cases, to relocate may prove discouraging to some would-be SAP Veterans to Work Program participants, the company-provided training, certification and job placement assistance are very attractive, Fanelli said, as is the acceptance of a wide range of applicants. When asked if program participants are chosen from a narrow range of military occupational specialties, Fanelli said, "another benefit of this program is the diversity of the candidates we're seeing. They're from all different grade levels and all different branches."
As for the training itself, she said, "We've given the veterans flexibility. That's the great thing about technology. You can do things in different ways. The courses can be anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks. Some of the courses are classroom-led. Many of the courses are online – some of which are self-taught or self-paced and some are instructor led. Again, we offer flexibility. We learned when talking to veterans when we were designing this program that many have day jobs and could only take our training in off hours, so that's when we came up with the concept of virtual training and self paced learning."
The vast majority of those who complete SAP courses do not go to work for the company itself, hence Fanelli's use of the term "SAP ecosystem" when speaking of post-training job placement. "The goal here is to get veterans out in the marketplace," she said. "Many of our partners, such as IBM, Accenture, Cognizant, Deloitte and HP, have already come to us and said, ‘Hey, we love this program, and if SAP's willing to help find and recruit and certify these people, then we would love the opportunity to hire them (to meet their needs for SAP support.'"
According to Fanelli, SAP considers its Veterans to Work Program a sustaining project and has plans for expansion beyond its own physical and virtual classrooms. "What we want to do in future years in put this into what we call the ‘SAP-University Alliance Program' where we have over 2,000 universities – 200 of them in the U.S. – who (will) actually teach SAP classes. When we have that set up, then veterans can go through the GI Bill, takes the courses and get college credit along with the certifications."
In the end, Fanelli characterizes SAP's Veterans to Work Program simply. "This is good business for us and this is good business for our veterans," she said.
During the Legion's 95th National Convention in Houston, SAP will be participating in the Hiring Our Heroes Transition & Benefits Career Fair, Aug. 27, and the Employment Transition Workshop, Aug. 26-27. Learn more about American Legion's career-building events during National Convention here .
Register for the career fair and employment workshop here .