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From Laid-off Chef to Salesforce Admin: How Trailhead Is Helping Service Workers Find a Future in Tech

Many of the 11 million unemployed Americans worked in industries hit hard by the pandemic, like restaurants, hospitality and retail. Here’s how Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform, is providing a pathway for laid-off service workers to reinvent their careers and build a future in the tech industry.

In March, Stephanie Brown learned that the Detroit hotel where she worked full-time as a banquet chef was laying her off — effective immediately. She received no warning, and no severance. Stephanie qualified for unemployment but knew that wouldn’t last forever and given the pandemic’s impact on the hospitality industry, it didn’t look like she could return to the role she’d held for five years anytime soon. Once government support ran out, she had no idea how she’d make ends meet.

Fast forward to last month, when Stephanie started as a Salesforce administrator at a company whose mission she is passionate about. Until then, her tech experience had been limited to working as a Genius at the Apple Store. Her key to this new career was Trailhead, the free learning platform that prepares people for careers in the Salesforce ecosystem. 

“I’m scared to think of where I’d be without it,” Stephanie says of Trailhead. “It has given me a new lease on life.”

Preparing laid-off service workers for in-demand tech jobs

Stephanie was one of millions of service industry workers who lost their jobs this year, as the country closed down to slow the spread of COVID-19. The restaurant industry was hit particularly hard: Two months into the pandemic, 40 percent of America’s restaurants were closed, and 8 million employees were without work — three times the job losses in any other industry. Today, 11 million Americans are still unemployed, many of them from the restaurant, hospitality and retail industries.

As they look for new positions, service workers are among those affected most by the growing chasm between the skills job seekers have and those companies are hiring for. In fact, the number of jobs for the top 25% of earners is now higher than it was before the pandemic, while for the bottom quarter — especially in low-wage, service-sector work — jobs are down by more than 20%. 

But the pandemic has also created demand for new positions, such as tech industry workers and people responsible for contact tracing. To help fill this demand, in recent months we’ve released new content on Trailhead that helps people succeed in remote work, including modules on self-motivation, personal productivity and best practices for working from home. We’ve also partnered with the University of California San Francisco to create a new course on contract tracing basics

Since the pandemic hit, the number of people signing up for Trailhead has jumped by nearly 40 percent. Users have also become more active on the platform, with learner engagement (measured by the number of badges earned) increasing by 50 percent. Trailhead Live, which offers live and on-demand video sessions on timely topics and skills, has seen traffic quadruple. And today, we’re kicking off our first ever DreamTX, the Dreamforce Trailblazer Experience, to bring our community together around dedicated demos and luminary sessions. 

Even during these tough times, 1 in 3 learners have found a new job with skills they’ve learned on Trailhead. We’re excited to be building a pool of qualified candidates for today’s in-demand tech jobs, and for the 4.2 million new jobs that the global Salesforce Economy is expected to add by 2024. 

From laid-off chef to passionate Salesforce administrator 

Stephanie had always been interested in technology, but she didn’t know how to break into the industry without a relevant degree or experience. She’d heard about Trailhead while working at a nonprofit, and after being laid off from her hospitality job, decided to give it a try. Stephanie treated learning like a job, spending up to 60 hours a week on the platform. She earned her first certification as a Salesforce administrator in three months. Since March, she has earned 140 badges, seven specialist superbadges and is now working on her fourth certification. 

In August, Stephanie, who is an Air Force veteran, was selected for the inaugural Hiring Our Heroes Salesforce Fellowship, a paid 12-week program and proactive approach to what is only the beginning of the ramifications of the pandemic on military family employment.

Since its launch in 2014, Salesforce Military has reskilled and upskilled a growing community of more than 30,000 Military Trailblazers. Those selected for the fellowship gain hands-on experience as certified Salesforce professionals that provides a competitive edge to help them prepare for a career in the Salesforce ecosystem.

After being selected for the program, Stephanie interviewed with a few companies and immediately knew she wanted a placement at pymetrics, a tech startup that uses behavioral science and artificial intelligence to eliminate bias in hiring. After her fellowship ended in October, the company hired her as a full-time Salesforce administrator. 

“It’s a great team with a great mission, and I’m absolutely loving the work I do,” Stephanie says. “For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I love Mondays.”

Stephanie is grateful to work remotely during the pandemic, so she can minimize COVID-19 risk for her 74-year-old mother, who is diabetic. Thanks to her job, Stephanie could move into her own apartment (she’d been staying with her mom) and stop worrying about how she’d pay her federal and private student loans. 

“I’m making up to three times as much as I made in the culinary field,” Stephanie says. “I’m able to live comfortably and not stress about living paycheck to paycheck. I’m actually looking forward to the possibility of buying a house someday and saving for retirement.”

To learn more about Trailhead, visit trailhead.salesforce.com and join us for DreamTX, a Dreamforce Trailblazer Experience, on December 14-17, 2020. 

To learn more about Salesforce Military, visit: salesforce.com/military

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