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KUALA LUMPUR: European multinational software corporation SAP Malaysia Sdn Bhd is hopeful the upcoming 2021 Budget will focus on upskilling and youth employment, together with small-medium enterprises' (SME) readiness for Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4) along with the transition to intelligent technologies on the cloud.

With automation threatening various existing jobs coupled with a shortage of qualified talent in emerging roles, managing director Hong Kok Cheong emphasised the immediate need for upskilling of present employees to become what industry terms as 'workforce of the future'.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to move towards a 'digital first' workforce," said Hong in a statement, adding that he looks forward to training and technology-enabled learning initiatives to be announced within Budget 2021.

He added that, given the current employment situation, every member of the workforce – from frontlines to the C-suite – should to continually enhance their skills to help them survive and thrive in the 'new norm.'

In recent years, Malaysia has been driving headlong on its journey towards becoming a high-income knowledge-based economy.

Accordingly, policies implemented in previous budgets have seen the ICT industry as a whole taking incremental step towards a unified vision in elevating the country's national competitiveness.

The Covid-19, pandemic, however, has derailed such efforts which is why SAP Malaysia supports 'people first' policies and initiatives to aid in the recovery of the economy and for the wellbeing and sustainability of livelihoods.

According to a recent World Economic Forum (WEF) study, the percentage of core skills that would change by 2025 is 40 per cent, with some 50 per cent of all employees needing re-skilling by that time.

Hong said these percentages could increase even more due to the rising demand for digital tools and processes.

"We support the government's lead to continuously promote access to digital technologies coupled with digital literacy and transferable skills," said Hong.

"Youth employment should be prioritised coupled with initiatives to improve online learning experiences."

SAP is collaborating with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) on the MyUniAlliance programme which provides training for some three thousand students per year.

Eighteen higher learning institutes, including two foreign universities, have participated in the programme.

In collaboration with the ASEAN Foundation, SAP Malaysia also hosts the ASEAN Data Science Explorers initiative at both national and regional levels.

The objective, here, is to encourage youths to embrace analytics skills to see through various projects to benefit communities and countries.

Encouragement for SME readiness for IR4 is also an important priority for businesses to embrace cutting-edge digital technologies to realise productivity and efficiency gains.

"The SME landscape is especially crucial as many still lag in technology adoption within their business operations. SAP Malaysia hopes that there will be more SME awareness, before increasing uptake on digital platforms," said Hong.

He explained that SMEs can utilise technology directly into key business processes if they are to survive and thrive against global competitors.

"SMEs can innovate and transform so as to elevate their competitiveness levels following disruptions caused by Covid-19," said Hong, adding that the pandemic has resulted in the economy going through a period of 'reset' before the 'rebound' which is currently happening.

"For SMEs that are complacent with a 'wait and see' attitude, they could be left behind – and may even become irrelevant," he further said, emphasising that businesses need to make the transition to becoming intelligent enterprises.

"In the 'new norm', intelligent enterprises can 'do more with less', deliver best-in-class customer experience, build resilient supply chains, while inventing new business models and revenue streams."

Many solutions that were once the exclusive domain of large corporates have been scaled in capacity – and price – and are now within reach of local SMEs.

One such affordable solution is currently available in the SAP Business One Starter Pack offering developed by a local solutions provider priced from RM1,488.

SAP Business One is renowned for being the comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) business suite designed specifically for SMEs.

Hong concluded by saying that SAP's vision is to help the world run better and improve people's lives.

"As a global leader, we stand for this higher purpose beyond economic success. As we look back at the sustainability journey that SAP has been on for more than a decade, we reinforce our pledge to use our extensive resources to make a positive global impact."

SAP has been in Malaysia for 28 years and is at the forefront across 25 various industries throughout the world.

In addition, 77 per cent of the world's transaction revenue touches an SAP system.