The key to a happy, productive workforce is getting the right people into the right jobs. We talked to Jon Yates, Co-founder of The Challenge, about how intelligent data management is helping to tackle youth unemployment by matching the aspirations of employees with the needs of employers. 


Tell is about your Step Forward programme

In the UK, we’ve been championing higher education over vocational training, yet when you think about it, doctors, lawyers, and other respected professionals are all, in fact, vocationally trained. The Challenge is rebranding apprenticeships and changing perceptions with our Step Forward programme. Under the initiative, we match candidates with the right attitudes and aspirations to prospective employers, giving young people the opportunity to develop skills, experience, and connections that could shape their careers in the future.


How does the programme help people make better connections?

We want to help young people create and expand their networks. When they join Step Forward, each apprentice, or associate as we call them, joins a group of peers who are undertaking different training courses for different career paths – from IT to childcare. We give them the opportunity to share their experiences and discuss issues throughout their apprenticeship; they often end up making friends and contacts for years to come. Building connections and creating a more connected society lies at the heart of our culture at the Challenge.


Can you tell me about the data behind the programme?

We have what we call a matching team for Step Forward. Associates apply to the programme online, and that information goes straight into Salesforce. Using that data, our matching team look for placements that would suit the skills, location, and aspirations of each applicant. They can then track the outcome to make more informed decisions going forwards. With data available at our fingertips, we can learn from each other and become a smarter organisation.


How does support Step Forward?

Young people are passionate about technology, but don’t always know how best to use it to further their careers. Working with, we offer young people the chance to become highly proficient CRM administrators. They love learning about what the Salesforce platform can do. Thanks to the training, they often go on to land great jobs because they can combine their passion for technology with the practical skills they’ve learned – making them a highly attractive employee for companies in a range of sectors.


How does Salesforce help you personally?

I love coming up with new ideas, solving problems, and finding better ways to do things. Salesforce helps us to take an idea and systemise it, so that it’s more robust and more efficient. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t change our minds! Adaptability is crucial for us, and with Salesforce, we can keep evolving our ideas. When an idea becomes an actual process or feature within Salesforce, that’s when we see huge efficiency gains. A process that used to take hours can end up taking just minutes.


What advice would you give to other organisations trying to improve efficiency?

You’ve got to be prepared for a bit of trial and error. Understanding every step of a process before you try to automate it might seem laborious, but it will save you time and money later. And, of course, I’d highly recommend taking on one of our Salesforce-trained Step Forward associates! Having a good Salesforce administrator that knows the potential of the platform will make a huge difference to what you can get out of it.


By capturing and analysing more apprenticeship data, Step Forward can help more young people get on the career ladder.  Find out how The Challenge is working with Salesforce to maximise its resources and results in the full success story here.