Managing virtual companies, jumpstarting careers
CMU's ERPsim competition connects students with great jobs
Central Michigan University’s ERPsim Invitational Competition provides students with hands-on, real-world experience as they compete to create the most effective business solutions. The 2022 competition, hosted annually by CMU’s College of Business Administration, will be held virtually on Tuesday, Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
We spoke with Stephen Tracy, director of the SAP Next-Gen University Alliance Program and business information systems faculty member, and Vishal Shah, associate director of the SAP Next-Gen University Alliance Program and business information systems faculty member, ahead of the competition to learn more about ERPsim, its value to students and why it has become a staple event at the university.
Q: For those who are not familiar, what is the ERPsim competition?
Tracy: ERPsim is a competition between student teams of 3-6 members, who must use SAP software to generate the highest net income for the simulation rooted in ERP. Each team is paired with mentors from participating companies who assist them throughout the competition. This year’s competition will see nearly 120 students paired with 42 corporate mentors.
Students are awarded scholarships and many of the students receive job opportunities from the companies involved as a result of their performance. The purpose of us doing this is to teach businesses about what our students are learning. The only way we are going to get them to come here, and recruit is if we can effectively demonstrate that our students are truly brilliant.
Shah: The ERPsim is about teaching students the integrated nature of enterprise by putting them together in diverse teams where they must collaborate and communicate with each other in order to run a successful business. Students are given the opportunity to learn how to work in teams under high pressure, which is an invaluable experience.
Q: How many students are offered job opportunities as a result of the competition?
Tracy: The competition works in conjunction with the Alpha Kappa Psi Career Fair. Probably a dozen to 20 students will receive offers during the event. When students go to the career fair, recruiters know the event took place, and it becomes a discussion point. It’s incredibly valuable and I think we get a lot of companies that offer jobs to the students based on their ability to express what they learned.
Shah: Even if students don’t win the competition, the companies are always watching how they behave under pressure and if they work well together in the face of failure. There is continuity in those two events where students can leverage that to make connections not only with their mentors, but they could go talk to other companies as well.
Q: What do you think is the biggest benefit for students who participate in ERPsim?
Tracy: I think the most significant takeaway for students is the opportunity to impress the participating companies. Students learn how important teamwork and communication are in the real world because they cannot be successful in this event unless they work as a team.
It gives students a perspective on what their jobs would look like and who they’re going to work with while providing realistic expectations. The mentors take away a lot from this relationship also. It keeps them refreshed. Many of our mentors are graduates, many are not. So, they continually get to see the value of a student coming to CMU and the education that they leave with.
Q: Are the SAP skills gained here transferrable to other software systems used in the industry?
Tracy: While we are using SAP as the teaching tool, the concepts are the same whether we’re using Bond, Oracle, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, or Microsoft Dynamics. We just use a different set of keystrokes and terminology to use it.
Shah: What students learn is abstract enough that they can apply it to many other domains. That’s another good thing about this event. It is not so tool-focused. These tools are teaching mechanisms for them to think about business and how things are connected.
Q: Is this opportunity solely for Central Michigan University students, or do students from other universities also compete?
Tracy: Each country holds a competition where the winner moves on to an international event in June. In our competition, the winner moves on to the North American Playoff. We would then compete against schools from Canada and all over the U.S. to determine which team competes internationally.
Central has won that international event. We have placed second in it a couple of times, and we’ve placed sixth before too. In the seven years that we’ve played, we’ve finished quite well.
To learn more about CMU’s ERPsim competition, visit cmich.edu.