A big focus of Salesforce is education and furthering the workforce for underserved communities. Which is why we’ve announced more than $1 million in grants to Schools Plus, an organisation which supports teachers to deliver programs that will help children facing disadvantaged success at school, and CareerTrackers, a national non-profit which creates pathways for Indigenous young adults to attend and graduate university and gain industry experience.
In Australia, there are approximately 4,600 schools that qualify as disadvantaged. That’s a huge number of students being and feeling left behind. Which is where Schools Plus comes in, helping to close the education gap. According to Schools Plus, children who face disadvantage are, on average, three years behind their peers at age 15.
Supporting Schools Plus
A big focus of Schools Plus is supporting core skills, including literacy, numeracy and STEM. The recent funding from Salesforce will support 54 teachers at 18 schools to deliver STEM learning opportunities to 3,600 students. Opportunities they may not have received otherwise. This includes programs for the professional development of teachers to deliver blended online and classroom teaching.
We all saw how COVID-19 made every organisation pivot online. This was a massive undertaking for schools across the country, many of which were simply not prepared for how quickly it had to happen. The result, though, is that schools are now able to provide online learning, when required, and even combine this with face-to-face education. The hope is that with further professional development, teachers will be able to create a fluid educational system that can adapt for flexible learning or any future education disruptions that may be thrown their way.
The funding provided will also go towards the Schools Plus Collaboration Forum, which is a joint venture with Salesforce connecting principals, teachers and experts to explore, expand and engage with each other to bring STEM skills and mindsets into the classroom.
When it came to deciding how to use the money donated in this latest funding round, it came down to listening to the schools and figuring out what they need most to ensure they are providing the best care and education to their students.
“The events of 2020 reignited conversations about the dynamic future and workforce for which young people will need to be prepared. The funding enables teachers to take part in professional development so they can better deliver STEM education and buy equipment such as robotics kits, VR goggles and drones to support STEM lessons.”
Our relationship with CareerTrackers began in 2018, when we provided funding and technology expertise to allow the organisation to further their student internship placements. According to CareerTrackers, the importance of a hands-on experience can be life-changing. Founder Michael Combs says it best: “An internship is a rocket ship to a very different future”. This first grant allowed the organisation to increase their capacity working with interns by just over 10%. The latest funding will provide 375 Indigenous high school students with intensive support to complete their studies and enrol in university. It will also help deliver dedicated coaching and mentoring for students in years 10-12, and provide paid professional internships ahead of starting university.
One of the most successful volunteer giving programs we’ve done through our partnership with CareerTrackers was helping to transform their annual leadership conference into a virtual event. The conference happens at the conclusion of the internship period and is open to more than 1,000 CareerTrackers interns and Alumni. It’s usually the biggest gathering of Indigenous students in the country and keynote speakers may include anyone from Alan Joyce to Adam Goodes. While this would usually be done in-person, due to COVID-19, it had to be held virtually. Salesforce is proud to have offered our expertise through our volunteer time off (VTO) program, providing CareerTrackers with pro-bono time to help guide them.
With the goal to create supportive employment pathways for Indigenous students, CareerTrackers acknowledges and addresses the inequality Indigenous students face when trying to find internships and employment.
“Our partnership with Salesforce has grown tremendously because we both share an appreciation for the important role Business Tech plays in our society,” says Jennifer. “What began with a boot-camp co-facilitated by Salesforce with nine CareerTrackers students to build their awareness of career opportunities in Business Tech, has since transformed into the Foundation investing in our program, CEO Pip Marlow mentoring our Alumni on a monthly basis, and the business employing student interns.”
It’s not just about the money
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to help organisations help their communities. But for us here at Salesforce, it’s not just donating and walking away. With Schools Plus we surround the schools with volunteering, our offices or any resource we have really. If the school needs it, we’ll try our best to make it happen.
Salesforce has worked with Schools Plus since 2015 with more than 15,000 volunteer hours supporting 600 teachers every year at more than 50 schools, representing up to 10,000 students every year. We form relationships with the schools to really personalise the experience. It’s a genuine partnership. In fact, many teachers and principals have come forward to tell us that money has been the least important part of our relationship. It’s all of the other things we provide, the collaboration.
Rosemary agrees: “One of the great things about our partnership is the time and expertise volunteered by Salesforce staff. We’ve seen Salesforce staff run coding workshops for students and help prepare them for robotics tournaments, deliver design thinking sessions so teachers can work through some of their biggest challenges.”
It’s the same with CareerTrackers. We listen closely to CareerTrackers to figure out what they need and how we can help. How are we best placed to make a difference? How can we be consistently agile, adapting to the organisation’s needs, rather than being rigid in how we spend our donation or use our people?
At the end of the day, while we’re providing the resources, it’s a partnership that is growing and developing; we need to listen to the organisations we’re helping to figure out where and how our help will be most effective.
It’s about breaking barriers with the organisations we support. We sit with the schools, we build a familiarity with the students, we help them understand what we’re doing and why we want to do it. What you see, then, is that the students start to respond a lot better. They want to be part of it too. The more engagement we have with the students, the more trust we build and the better results we see. As Adam Davids, Director, Learning & Innovation at CareerTrackers said at Salesforce Live: A&NZ in 2020, “if young people don’t feel welcome and trusted, they just won’t stay”.
Our focus is, and continues to be, building a partnership, developing the relationship and understanding what each organisation needs.
“Equal access to education is critical to establishing a better and more equal Australia. We cannot achieve equality for all if Indigenous Australians and Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds have unfair and unequal access to learning and career opportunities,” said Pip Marlow, EVP & CEO, Salesforce ANZ and ASEAN. “Businesses can be a powerful platform for positive change, but it’s also everyone’s responsibility to open more doors, to better represent the communities we live and work in, and shape a better tomorrow for everyone.”
Wise words we all live by here at Salesforce.