“With Salesforce, we’re matching more students to the right apprenticeship.”

- Jon Lomas, Business and Enterprise Manager, Bolton College

Bolton College connects more students with opportunities using Salesforce

The age of the apprenticeship is dawning. With a constant need for skilled workers in the UK, the government is moving funding away from traditional college courses to vocational learning and apprenticeships. To match more students with suitable vacancies, Bolton College needed to better understand its network of employers.

The College offers more than 800 full and part time courses, and works with over 1,000 local businesses every year to place over 600 learners into apprenticeship vacancies and another 2,000 full time learners into work experience placements to further their careers.

“We want to help as many young people as possible learn, progress and achieve their full potential,” explained Jon Lomas, Business and Enterprise Manager for Bolton College. “With every placement we make, we get additional funding, which means we can grow our programme and offer more opportunities to both learners and employers.”

While the College has an excellent learner management system to track its students, it lacked visibility of its corporate customers: its employer network. “Before Sales Cloud we didn’t really have a clear understanding of the employers we were working with,” said Lomas. “And knowledge of our customers was limited. We didn’t know which apprenticeships they offered, whether they were new or returning customers, or who they’d been speaking to within our department.”

With employer data siloed across slow and archaic systems, the College realised its poor customer relationship management (CRM) was holding it back from reaching its true potential. “Although we’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do with Salesforce, in the three years since implementation we’ve already seen substantial growth” added Lomas. “We’re currently building an app that’s set to revolutionise the way our students can secure apprenticeships.”

As with all public sector organisations, the College needs to balance funding cuts from the government with continuing to offer high quality education. “With the discounted licence fees, Salesforce.org made Sales Cloud financially viable for us,” Lomas explained. “Without Salesforce.org the progress we’ve made over the past few years wouldn’t have been possible.”

A winning report card

With every employer interaction captured in Sales Cloud, the College’s customer-facing staff can now track the entire customer journey. And using the Salesforce1 Mobile App, they can access this information on their smartphone from any location. “The beauty of Salesforce is the flexibility it gives our users to work in a way that works for them. We all use the app differently, but efficiency and productivity have rocketed,” said Lomas.

When enquiries come in by phone or via the website, they go straight into Sales Cloud where they can be managed from prospect to placement. As Lomas recalled, “We had 800 people on work placements last year, all linked neatly to their employer in Sales Cloud. We had complete visibility of our students and our history with the customer – we can see if this is an employer’s first engagement or their fiftieth.”

The data gathered in Sales Cloud isn’t just a repository: it proactively powers reports to discover trends and gain feedback, giving the College visibility over which apprenticeships are popular and which new industries are worth adding to the curriculum. “Salesforce helps us serve our customers and students better,” confirmed Lomas. “We can also use this data to make smarter long term plans and see which apprenticeships are the most popular.”

A learning curve

Now in its third year of using Salesforce, Bolton College is starting to think big. “Salesforce is so easy to use that with the help of a few tutorials I’ve been able to accomplish everything I’ve set out to do with no specialist help,” said Lomas. “Behind that knowledge barrier is innovation – we can do whatever we want to do with Salesforce, there’s never the fear that it can’t be done.”

“Our future’s looking bright, and Salesforce has contributed to this,” concluded Lomas. “Our customer satisfaction rating has shot up from 7.8 to 9.6 since we started using Sales Cloud, and that’s just the beginning of our digital revolution.”

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