Students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology will benefit from more hands-on ERP experience thanks to a $4-million software grant from PeopleSoft.

The announcement made earlier this month was coupled with the opening of a North American support and development centre in Vancouver.

Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft Inc. will invest $20 million in the facility and an initial staff of 75 people.

The grant to BCIT is quite significant, says David Horspool, associate dean of information technology at BCIT’s School of Business in Burnaby, B.C. The grant includes use of PeopleSoft financials, HR, supply chain management and customer relationship management software.

“”We have been using ERP software in the School of Business for the past two years,”” says Horspool, including software from SAP on a smaller scale and Microsoft Great Plains.

Horspool says the PeopleSoft donation does not give the software maker any exclusivity on the BCIT campus, and the primary driver for these types of relationships is the demand from area employers for people with practical exposure to ERP.

For now, the donation directly benefits three programs in the school — HR management, operations management and information technology management. For example, PeopleSoft will be core content for the HR systems course in the HR management program, says Horspool. “”We expect in several other specific courses they will be able to offer PeopleSoft modules to demo HR functions.””

In the near term — the next 12 to 24 months — about 300 students will directly benefit, says Horspool. “”We would like to grow it beyond that.”” In addition to having the software, BCIT instructors also get full access to PeopleSoft training. Currently instructors are demonstratinging the software, he says, but it should available in BCIT labs in a networked environment by January.

While the software is primarily being made available to BCIT’s School of Business, Horspool says there will be opportunities for the technology programs at the school to access the software.

The School of Business is also looking at co-op opportunities with PeopleSoft for students. Currently the School of Business does not offer co-ops; instead it does end of year projects where students act as business consultants to area organizations.

Many tech companies seed post-secondary institutions to create potential new hires, something Mark Derraugh, PeopleSoft’s regional director for Western Canada, says is particularly important in Vancouver. “”We are looking down the road. As we continue to grow and expand our Vancouver operation, we require those skill sets coming out of the education system for us, our customers and our business partners.””

Students are not just going to come out of institutions such as BCIT with just PeopleSoft skills, he adds. “”They’re going to come out with an ERP understanding.””

The support and development centre is the first of its kind in Canada, says Derraugh. “”It’s also a first for PeopleSoft in terms of establishing development centres outside of corporate headquarters.””

The company already has approximately 50 support people based in Vancouver, he adds, but with the opening of the centre, the total number of employees will be 125. “”The difference is that is it now a global development and support centre. Before it was dealing with localizations of software, localized enhancement and support for those enhancements.””

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