A revolution in action: On closing the Salesforce skills gap with techUK and Salesforce [Podcast]

In the face of a growing skills gap, the importance of reskilling has never been greater. As cloud talent creation experts who specialize in cross-training IT professionals into technology markets that need skilled workers the most, we were delighted to participate in The Reskilling Imperative podcast series by Salesforce and techUK.

The series, which has four fascinating episodes, shared insights from speakers including Zahra Bahrololoumi, Executive Vice President and CEO of Salesforce UK, and our very own President, Nabila Salem. The series covers topics such as upskilling current workforces, engaging the young talent of tomorrow’s workforce, and building out more diverse talent pipelines.

In this blog, we summarize all four episodes and provide links to each podcast. Short on time? Use the nav bar below to skip to the podcast that’s most relevant to you.

Episode 1 – How to thrive in a digital economy

In the series’ first episode, Policy Manager at techUK Nimmi Patel sits down with Adam Spearing, EMEA Field CTO & SVP at Salesforce to discuss the growing skills gap.

Adam highlights the importance of enabling young people to understand the opportunities available to them in the digital economy, especially as the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE continues to dwindle (falling 40% since 2015, with the numbers for A Levels, further education courses and apprenticeships also declining).

Adam also points to Salesforce’s growing apprentice scheme, which offers young people who may not have university qualifications the chance to earn and learn with their platform.

The pair discuss the challenges businesses will face as the skills gap grows, with Adam advising businesses to put programs in place now to upskill existing teams, while also considering the skills they’ll need in place to thrive in the future.

The episode closes with a timely reminder from Adam that, while companies are competing against each other in the war for cloud talent, ultimately the skills gap will not be closed by competitiveness. Instead, as a sector we’ll need to band together to have any chance of tackling the skills gap in a meaningful and lasting way.

"Every organization has a responsibility, in my opinion, to reskill employees. Think about it: the skills employees will need in three years time are not necessarily hard technology skills, they’re very teachable. It’s an imperative that individual organizations can’t solve on their own. Solving the skills gap requires the tech industry (and government) to lead us in the right direction to begin with, but then for all organizations to think seriously about the skills they need for the future.”
Adam Spearing
EMEA Field CTO & SVP Solution Consulting UKI, Salesforce

Episode 2 – Creating the workforce of the future

In the second, fantastic episode of the series, Kirstin Steinmetz, EMEA Workforce Developer Manager at Salesforce speaks to 19-year-old Stany Lucau, a Salesforce Development Apprentice at Salesforce about how tech companies like Salesforce need a workforce readily equipped with the skills required to overcome the problems of today, and tomorrow.

Stany, who is from a small town just outside Dublin, shares his experiences as a recent school-leaver who entered the world of work through Salesforce’s apprenticeship program, which trains and places young people to provide them with paid work experience and build on-the-job skills, to help them kickstart a career in tech.

Kirstin highlights how, in the current climate of talent shortages, programs like these are essential for organizations to build out talent pipelines at scale, in order to futureproof them from further increases in the already growing tech skills gap. Stany, remembers how an “unexpected call” from a school guidance counsellor led him to agree to work for, what he calls, a “very techy” company like Salesforce. He also recalls how the apprenticeship allowed him to develop skills that will mean he has better employment prospects in the future, and how it has led him to further develop his own skills using resources like Trailhead and YouTube. Which he says should be a first port of call for young people like him who want to develop their tech skills, but don’t know where to start.
"My advice to any young person who is considering a career in tech is just to dive in. Trailhead and YouTube are great ways to further your tech knowledge, and they’re free.”
Stany Lucau
Sales Development Apprentice, Salesforce

Episode 3 – The role of businesses in closing the skills gap

The penultimate episode of ‘The Reskilling Imperative’ podcast series featured techUK’s President Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, and Zahra Bahrololoumi, CEO of Salesforce UK and Ireland.

In it, they discuss the responsibility that businesses have to upskill and reskill workers to help close the skills gap, focusing on the changes workforces have experienced in the past 18 months as many workers went remote virtually overnight. They also explore how COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation beyond everyone’s expectations.

Zahra emphasizes how, with many companies now fully digital, the added demand on the tech sector and its workers means companies can no longer “do nothing” as the need for urgent action to tackle the skills gap grows. She also gives some examples of Salesforce’s approach to reskilling, including their widely touted Trailhead platform.

The pair then discuss how the pandemic has disproportionality affected Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups, noting that the growing skills gap could very easily lead to an inequality crisis in tech, as companies forgo widening the net in their recruitment and instead, focus heavily on simply getting candidates through the door in response to this pressure.

To combat this, Zahra outlines how businesses must promote careers in tech to all and accept candidates beyond the usual Ivy League or Russell Group fare while also promoting the resources and tools that are available that help people from a wide range of backgrounds reskill and upskill into these technologies.

"COVID-19 accelerated the digital transformation agenda across all of society, not just the corporate world. In this new work-from-anywhere world, every company has to be able to sell, service, market, collaborate, analyze data, and deliver from anywhere. […] Which is why it’s our responsibility as a sector to give our workforce the skills they need to keep up with this new digital demand."
Zahra Bahrololoumi
CEO of Salesforce UK and Ireland

Episode 4 – A revolution in action

In the final episode, our President, Nabila Salem and Stuart Mills, VP of Trailhead and Ecosystems at Salesforce discuss Revolent’s mission, to solve one of tech’s biggest challenges – a lack of diversity – by leveraging another key issue in the sector, the growing skills gap.

Nabila outlines how, with our sector needing talent at a far greater scale than is currently available, widening our net in terms of recruitment will go a long way to solving the very real challenges that businesses – no matter their size – are facing because of the skills gap today.

Nabila and Stuart also speak about the societal imperative of ensuring that tech careers are accessible to all, with Nabila flagging that, if the moral imperative to strive for further inclusion and diversity is not enough, the business case absolutely should be. She notes that, nowadays, more diverse companies consistently outperform those with less diversity from board level all the way through to team level.

And the research is there to back her up, a recent report on diversity from McKinsey shows how gender diverse boards are 25% more likely to be more profitable than their less diverse peers. And how, with ethnic and cultural diversity, it’s the same story. Companies in the top quartile for diversity outperform those in the lower quartile by 36% which is a staggering amount of profit just left on the table by companies who are unable, or unwilling, to change with the times.

Nabila goes on to note how, for Revolent, this model of cross-training a diverse range of tech talent into Salesforce, is working. She cites how over 50% of people in our senior management team are women, 63% of our employees identify as Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic, and 37% of our employees are first-in-family to attend university. The result of this is adding valuable, net new talent to the ecosystem as a whole.

“The growing gap of skilled Salesforce professionals has inflated salaries and created a new war for talent which is impacting smaller businesses and larger businesses alike. […] By cross-training a diverse range of tech talent into Salesforce professionals, Revolent provide much-needed, net new talent to the Salesforce ecosystem, all while opening up opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily be available to certain demographics.”
Nabila Salem
President of Revolent Group

The podcast closes with Nabila detailing three key takeaways for businesses trying to tackle the skills gap, both within their organization and outside of it: encourage more young people to work in tech, look beyond traditional hiring options, and – finally – cross-training people already in the sector.

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