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Connecting Schools and Colleges with Employers through Salesforce

By April 9, 2015

Author: John Holder, Salesforce IT Systems Administrator for the Inspiring the Future programme at Education and Employers

Inspiring the Future

Young people’s career aspirations have ‘Nothing in Common’ with the realities of the UK labour market. This was stark conclusion from research in 2013 by Education and Employers.

Studies also show that the more people from the world of work that young people encounter through their schools, the better they do as young adults: they are more likely to be in education, employment or training than comparable peers and, if in full-time employment, they earn more (see here).

Inspiring the FutureTo help realign misconceptions, Education and Employers has developed Inspiring the Future which is a free service where volunteers, from Apprentices to CEOs, Archaeologists to Zoologists, pledge an hour a year to talk to young people about their job and career in a local state school or college. Salesforce has played a crucial role in making this free national network a reality.

The main challenge to address was that, without significant and costly hands-on brokerage by external intermediaries, schools have historically struggled to access volunteers to inspire young people to engage with education, achieve the best and most appropriate qualifications possible and choose pathways which maximise chances of getting attainable jobs matching their skills and interests. So how could we make it easy and free for teachers to find and communicate with inspirational volunteers?

Enter Salesforce and the to enable a radical innovation in ways in which schools and colleges connect with local employers. We knew that, if asked, huge numbers of people in local communities would be willing to help local schools. The goal was to find a way of harnessing technological innovation to identify these prospective volunteers and make them available to schools effectively, efficiently and equitably.

Technological Journey

In partnership with Deloitte, whose Salesforce expertise was generously offered pro bono, Education and Employers built a very non-standard database, VisualForce user portal and Apex code business processes which allowed volunteers to register a career profile and choose their volunteering areas, and enabled teachers to search for relevant volunteers in their school or college Local Authority and send them a message to begin a two-way dialogue.

This self-service ‘dating site’ for teachers facilitated school-employer engagement and it was expanded and improved in line with usage, feedback, additional initiatives and internal review of users’ experiences. For example, we allowed teachers to contact multiple volunteers in batches rather than individually and message traffic rocketed!

In 2014, we commissioned a project to:

  • Sustain the rapid growth in user numbers and correspondence traffic (20000 volunteers and 9000 teachers sending over 75000 invitations).
  • Ensure a database and code which were streamlined, best practice and robust.
  • Enrich user experience through modern, visually-appealing user pages and targeted content of interest to different user types which can be branded for individual organisations’ users.
  • Allow easier invitation responses and event feedback from mobile/tablet devices in securely without the need to login.
  • Make volunteer searching akin to modern product/property search sites, allow searching for ex-students, and add new mapping and data capture integrations.

New user-specific VisualForce portal pages

With developers, Westbrook International, and support from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and National Apprenticeship Service (Skills Funding Agency), we deployed Phase 1 on 8 February 2015. This incorporated the bulk of the code, database and user interface enhancements and removed previously identified barriers to user adoption like lack of direct communication from mobiles/tablets, clunky volunteer search, old-fashioned pages and frustrating feedback processes.

Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive to the re-vamped portal and we are already seeing an increase in volunteer responses to invitations with this new instant access.


Inspiring the Future also has themed campaigns with companies and their supply chains; sectors; central and local government departments; umbrella/professional bodies like CIPD and CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants); and specific participant groups.

Inspiring Women

The Inspiring Women ‘Driven to Success’ event focused on females working in driving, flying and sailing.

One such high profile campaign which aligns with the CSR priorities of many organisations, including Salesforce and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is Inspiring Women. The Women in Leadership breakout session at the Salesforce World Tour London 2014 event, demonstrates Salesforce’s commitment to encouraging women and girls to aspire to and achieve their maximum potential in the workplace.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, partner at law firm Dechert LLP, who just happens to be wife of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, has been the passionate champion of Inspiring Women and who, with advocates like TV presenter Clare Balding has led participation in our career speed dating events. These see groups of girls spend a few minutes with several inspirational woman hearing and quizzing them about their experiences, skills and choices to help inform and inspire the girls to achieve their career goals.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, Inspiring Women Champion

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, Inspiring Women Champion

lare Balding, career speed dating at the Olympic Aquatic Centre Women in Sport event

Clare Balding, career speed dating at the Olympic Aquatic Centre Women in Sport event

Other events focus on individual sectors/regions like Women in Technology or Women in the City of London and we also run campaigns including Inspiring Governors for schools and, more recently, Primary Futures which encourages people from industry to demonstrate how learning of English and Maths are vital for future employment. See here or @Edu_employers on Twitter.

Over the first two years of its operation, over 450,000 young people engaged with Inspiring the Future volunteers and teachers tell us that the system is easy to use and that young people gain significantly from their encounters with volunteers. Inspiring the Future has shown that, by harnessing technology, we can make it easy and quick for schools to connect with local employers.

About John:

John Holder is the Salesforce IT Systems Administrator for the Inspiring the Future programme at the charity, Education and Employers. He is responsible for running the Salesforce system which underpins Inspiring the Future and defines and manages improvements and relationships with 3rd party developers. Previously he managed the end-to-end implementation of Salesforce at G4S FM and undertook ongoing system administration and re-configuration work.