Why digital accessibility is vital for a diverse and resilient tech industry
Democratising education through openly available learning platforms is a must to change the face of tech, and equip people for the future of work, says Stuart Mills, VP, Trailhead & ecosystem EMEA, Salesforce
Increasing diversity in tech is one of the biggest opportunities we have to solve the global skills challenge. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. Research has shown that companies that invest in equality – such as diversity programs and equal pay – and lead with these values, have a competitive advantage over those who do not.
That’s why at Salesforce we believe we have a role to play in attracting diverse talent into our ecosystem, by reducing barriers and creating more opportunities for people from all walks of life to discover that tech can be a gateway into so many jobs. Along with our partners, we are preparing the next generation of leaders, especially young people from underrepresented and underserved communities, with the education, skills, and access to opportunities to succeed.
We launched the Trailhead platform to democratise digital learning, taking participants from a low level of technical knowledge to a Salesforce role in as little as six months. Initially used by our own internal employees of over 50,000 globally, the free online learning platform now has over 3.5 million users around the world. Just 2% of the jobs created from qualifications that people achieve from Trailhead, whether that is in engineering, design or marketing are employed directly by Salesforce, with 98% gaining employment in our customers and partner ecosystem.
We see lots of inspiring stories from those who are using Trailhead; many successfully carving out careers in the tech industry. I recently had the opportunity to visit one of our partners, LDN Apprentices, who had come together in person. I got to see, first-hand, 30 apprentices who had been learning virtually for 17 months. I was encouraged to see such energy, quality and diverse talent in the room.
We also have a wonderful partner in the UK called Supermums, who focus specifically on helping mums and dads return to work after parental leave by upskilling and retraining in Salesforce. They also support parents to find flexible, well-paid roles that fit around family life.
Recently we’ve been working with organisations that help us tap into talent for whom flexibility is a priority. For example, Croud, a marketing agency that has a global network of 2,400 highly qualified digital experts who work “on-demand” in a gig economy environment. It’s a suitable choice for working parents, part-time workers, and digital nomads alike.
Trailhead has the ability to build the confidence of individuals having been away from work, while acknowledging the life and professional experience they’ve already achieved. We also work closely with ex veterans leaving the Armed Forces, through Salesforce Military. Taking time out of the workforce, or time spent in a different career shouldn’t be a barrier to entering the technology industry. Trailhead isn’t just for technical skills either, it also offers life skills content – from equality to culture, storytelling to coaching, impactful leadership to big picture thinking.
There can be a lack of understanding of just how accessible digital skills can be. Salesforce technology isn’t just for the digitally educated, you don’t need in-depth technology skills to use it. There are career opportunities for everyone.
COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of all aspects of society and one thing has become clear. The world has changed and we’re not going back. From now on, remote work will just be work. E-commerce will just be commerce. Video meetings will just be meetings. Every company has to be able to work, sell, service, market, collaborate and analyse data from anywhere. As business and working models change, digital skills have come into much sharper focus for organisations needing to adapt and build resilience.
As the UK economy looks to post-pandemic recovery, the changing nature of jobs poses challenges for workers in every industry. According to research in partnership with IDC, one in six people have low or no digital skills. By 2030, nine out of 10 will need to learn new skills to do their jobs, at a cost of £1.3bn a year. The accelerated need for digital is having a major impact on the jobs we do now and the skills we need for the future of work.
Companies around the world have had to fundamentally rethink their operating models in response to COVID-19 and Salesforce is no different. Our own facilities and office management teams, who were purely office based, had to transition to being at home. When they did, they focussed on exploring Trailhead. We now have colleagues who have since stepped into new roles across the business, such as in marketing – all as a result of the certifications they achieved over the lockdowns. The opportunities exist for all companies, and the ones that will emerge stronger are the ones that embrace change and don’t simply snap back to the way things were done before.
Salesforce believes that business has a responsibility to upskill the current and future workforce to make sure that people don’t get left behind. People are looking to companies to play a leading role in preparing the workforce for the future. Everyone needs to be given the opportunity to participate in the new digital economy. It’s about understanding the missing skills needed for the future of work and addressing the training and reskilling imperative.
We believe other organisations can do that just as seamlessly. We have a large number of customers who have been looking at this challenge and asking how they convert an operations role into a technology role. What traditionally would have happened would have been a redundancy programme. Now, with platforms like Trailhead, a significant percentage of those people can make the journey from one role to another. Companies can not only save huge amounts in terms of recruitment, but they gain from people’s knowledge of the company and their loyalty. Leading companies are starting to think more differently about organisational change, so the first thing that comes to mind is not redundancy, it’s reskilling.
Whether it’s building pathways for diverse talent, or arming people with the tools to reskill for the next phase of their careers, what we aim to do with Trailhead is take away the reason lots of people feel they can’t learn – lack of access.
To find out how Salesforce is powering the workforce of tomorrow, visit trailhead.salesforce.com.