Funding Our Future: Investing in Australian Education and Training Programs for Disadvantaged Communities
Education has been a key focus for Salesforce for over a decade. Today at World Tour Sydney, Pip Marlow continued that commitment by announcing a series of grants with a focus on closing the education gap and creating career pathways for disadvantaged students and Indigenous Australians.
The grants will provide funding for Schools Plus, a not-for-profit which provides Australian children with the educational opportunities they need to thrive at school and beyond, and CareerTrackers, a not-for-profit which creates pathways for young Indigenous Australians to access university education and gain industry experience.
Through our Catalyst Fund, we’ll also be supporting Redfern Youth Connect, Deadly Connections, and Plate it Forward. The Catalyst Fund was specifically designed to support younger, smaller organisations led by people of colour and members of other underrepresented minorities.
In total, Salesforce has announced more than USD $1 million (over AUD $1.4 million) in grants to these five organisations.
Why nurturing early career teachers and STEM education in Australia matters
Australian education is facing a crisis. A recent survey of nearly 2,500 teachers, published in the Australian Journal of Education, found that only 41% intend to remain in the profession. Retention of early career teachers is particularly difficult, with 1 in 3 teachers aged under 30 predicted to leave the profession in the next decade.
Over time, teacher shortages can seriously inhibit education outcomes and the likelihood of students to move into tertiary education, and it’s disadvantaged schools that are hit hardest. Schools Plus addresses retention issues with its Early Career Teacher Program, which provides new teachers with mentoring and professional development to set them up for a fulfilling and successful career.
Schools in disadvantaged communities often lack the teaching capacity and resources to provide the education to prepare their students for the roles needed in the future, such as tech workers. The current tech workforce is already experiencing a national shortage, with the Tech Council of Australia recently reporting vacancy rates in tech industries 60% higher than the national average.
Keeping both teachers and students invested in STEM education is a crucial piece of the puzzle to achieving a robust tech workforce and the Australian Tech Council’s goal of 1.2 million tech workers in Australia by 2030. This is why Schools Plus invest in STEM education projects in disadvantaged schools — a program that the grant from Salesforce will help to expand.
Schools Plus also enables early career teachers to run meaningful teaching projects. One teacher who has created a project and improved education outcomes for her students is Holly Wedd, an early career maths teacher at Orara High School.
Holly founded an Annual Mathematics Olympics to help reduce the stigma felt by students around difficulty in maths. Now in its third year, the program is currently running across five high schools in the Coffs Harbour and Clarence Valley regions. The program’s digital resources have spread even further, inspiring and educating students from over 30 schools across New South Wales.
We are incredibly proud to partner with Schools Plus to support teachers like Holly and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The USD $500,000 grant will fund STEM education programs and a support program focusing on the professional development, retention and recognition of early career teachers.
Learn more about how the Salesforce Foundation helps young people reach their full potential.
Endless opportunities for Indigenous students with CareerTrackers
Research shows that Indigenous Australians continue to have disproportionately lower participation and completion rates in high school, university and professional private sector employment. A study from Universities Australia, released in 2022, found that 49.4% of First Nations students completed their Bachelor’s degree, compared to 72.2% of non-First Nations students.
CareerTrackers acknowledges and addresses the inequality Indigenous people face when trying to find internships and employment with its goal of creating supportive learning and employment pathways for pre-professional Indigenous students.
It does this by linking university students to employers in paid, multi-year internships, typically carrying participants through a large portion of their studies. The internships lead to real employment outcomes for young Indigenous Australians, with 80% of CareerTracker students in full-time employment within three months of completing their studies.
One student who has seen their employment opportunities expand through CareerTrackers’ high school program is Torres Strait Islander student Laura Beschel, who completed a Work Shadow Week opportunity at Ashurst law firm. Laura worked alongside Trent Wallace, an Aboriginal lawyer working on cases related to the referendum and LGBTQI+ issues among First Nations communities.
The experience solidified Laura’s passion for solving societal issues and her ambition to pursue a Bachelor of Justice degree after high school.
Laura said the experience was especially important as she didn’t see any Indigenous professional role models in Toowoomba, outside of her mum and her career counsellor.
“The experience gave me confidence that I didn’t have before,” she said. “Now I feel like I can pursue any career I put my mind to.”
Salesforce has a long history with CareerTrackers, supporting the organisation since 2018. We’re proud to pledge USD $250,000 which will be used to help expand CareerTrackers’ high school program with a focus on increasing the number of indigenous students who complete year 12 and move onto university or other education streams.
In 2023, its goal is to have 300 students in years 9–12 participate in professional development, training and industry insights.
The Catalyst Fund
Alongside Schools Plus and CareerTrackers, the Catalyst Fund will be distributed among three organisations aimed at supporting local communities facing disadvantages. Each has been granted a USD $100,000 donation, in recognition of the work they do enabling First Nations communities or those facing barriers to obtaining training and education.
Redfern Youth Connect helps provide local youth with the resources and skills to become successful leaders in their home communities. As a not-for-profit Indigenous-led youth organisation, its work inspires future leaders to develop the skills that will carry them (and the rest of the world) into a brighter generation.
Deadly Connections is another proud Indigenous-led organisation aimed at helping First Nations Australians recover from generational grief, loss and trauma. It advocates for positive change to child protection and justice systems.
Plate it Forward has a unique, yet powerful means of serving its local community. Simultaneously offering workplace opportunities and invaluable skills for aspiring workers along with meals for those in need, its efforts and innovations are a proud reflection of the good in our community.
Investing in Australia’s future
Since day one, Salesforce has been guided by its values. Our value of equality inspires us to continue our investment in education, so that all Australians have fair and equal access to the future they deserve.
We’re proud that these grants will allow not-for-profits to maintain and scale programs that are helping to close the education gap and create employment pathways.