Key Points:

Students looking to recession-proof their degrees are increasingly looking at taking on short courses which don't add any credits but do make them more employable.

At Auckland University's business school, that includes Microsoft and Cisco certification, and for the first time last year, certification in SAP, one of the major enterprise management software systems. Tutor David Sundaram says the school will try and run it again this year.

Don Sheridan, the head of the information systems and operations management department, says: "There has been significant interest from students in taking the related commercial courses we offer to enhance their CV."

The 12-day course, Integrated Business Processes in SAP ERP based on SAP best practices (BPERP), costs $2000.

SAP and other commercial programmes are also used in the school's enterprise systems courses, giving students hands-on experience of the technology they will encounter in the workplace. Sheridan says it is increasingly focusing on industry solutions, setting up a centre for supply chain management to make students aware of the practical aspects of what they are learning.

He says networking with the centre's dozen or so corporate sponsors gives students an idea of where their studies could be heading.

"They may be studying this from an academic perspective, but they have not met their ultimate employer. The employers are telling them SAP and anything relating to supply chain management is hot, so there is viral marketing going on."

Picking the most suitable technology to teach from what is available in the marketplace has long been a challenge in the tertiary sector.

Sheridan's department is looking to give students some solid foundations, as while they may not end up as pure technologists, any business career today is likely to require some hands-on engagement with technology or technology change.

The BPERP course was useful not only to those majoring in information systems, but also for supply chain, marketing and accounting streams.

PhD student Shahper Vodanovich, who did the BPERP course, says it's a great way to bridge from academic study to working on SAP systems in business.

Vodanovich, who worked for EDS as an SAP graduate before returning for postgraduate study, says her SAP certification will make her much more confident in the workplace.

SAP's Ian Black says the relationship with the university is important to the company as it tries to meet the huge demand for consultants able to configure and implement its systems.

He says SAP has donated more than $1 million in software for the enterprise systems courses.

SAP has its own training facilities in Auckland and Wellington and also delivers courses online and at customer sites.

Its certification examinations cover 1900 training courses, an indication of the scope of the German company's offerings.

Sheridan says various departments at Auckland University have rationalised their offerings to avoid duplication, so the business school teaches the database side of computer science, while the computer science school covers specialised areas like artificial intelligence.

While short courses are becoming more prevalent in putting together a degree, Sheridan's department has also developed a year-long project course at stage three level which puts teams of students into firms to analyse and solve real business problems.

Sheridan says: "One of the issues is we had been moving to 15-point courses, with students taking several courses a year.

"The Infosys 341 course involved anything from 600 to 1000 hours in the corporate world, so it was hard to rationalise that amount of work for 15 points. We asked to make it a 60-point course, because it's similar to the clinical year in medicine or psychology.

Each project is different.

"The team meets the employer on a daily basis and our supervisor on a weekly basis. It's a sophisticated model that requires flexibility from the university."

The course allows international students to be exposed to New Zealand employers, who are more likely to hire them having seen their capacity.