Kaylea Gray was fresh out of school and in the early years of building her own esthetic services company when COVID-19 forced her to shut down her small business.
She liked how her new role in retail customer service helped customers make purchasing decisions and wondered how she could move into a sales career. A conversation with one of her husband’s co-workers gave her the answer.
“He told me that he had gone through this program that trained him in business-to-business (B2B) tech sales and that it had helped him successfully land a job at a tech company,” recalls Gray. “He kept saying amazing things about the program – mostly that it really works.”
The program, called SalesCamp, is one of two upskilling programs offered by Palette Skills, a national non-profit organization that helps Canadian workers forge new career paths and connects them with some of the country’s most innovative employers. The organization is supported through a number of organizations including: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and TD Bank Group. Palette Skills also provides upskilling through training led by its partner companies.
Anticipating disruption in the labour market
Palette Skills was borne out of a desire to disrupt the market and change the status quo. Palette Skills Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer AJ Tibando recalls that pivotal moment more than six years ago when she realized the labour market was about to go through another major transformation, driven in large part by next-generation automation and artificial intelligence technologies.
“We’re really starting to see these changes now where some of these new technologies coming online are threatening to disrupt workers, including those in skilled roles who had felt safe in the past,” says Tibando.
“Palette Skills came about from looking at the trends, seeing there’s looming disruption and figuring out how to move people from one side of the labour market to the other by building on the skills and knowledge they already have.”
With the SalesCamp program, Palette Skills puts successful applicants through six weeks of in-person and online training designed to prepare them for a career in B2B technology sales. The program, which recently received a donation from the TD Ready Commitment (the TD corporate citizenship platform) has trained more than 500 Canadians to date.
"We are proud to support programs like Palette Skills' SalesCamp, which helps equip individuals with the tools, resources and training they need to better prepare for success in the job market. This is one of the ways we're helping to support the drive towards a more inclusive and equitable tomorrow," says Alicia Rose, AVP, Social Impact, TD Bank Group.
To help improve access to employment, TD is focused on supporting workforce training and skills development programs like Palette Skills’ SalesCamp, that address barriers to employment and help people prepare for jobs in high-demand sectors.
According to Palettes Skills, on average, 90% of SalesCamp alumni secure jobs in tech sales within six months, with nearly 40% landing work with a Palette Skills employer partner. Within 18 months of graduating from the program and securing a role, about 35% of SalesCamp participants receive a promotion.
“SalesCamp was the very first program we launched and it's really been the model that we've built everything around,” says Tibando. “As we continue to grow and expand it, we’re also using it to continually generate new knowledge and practices on how to do things better, how to reach deeper into the job seeker market and bring more people into the pipeline, including hard-to-reach or underrepresented groups.”
Palette Skills followed up on the success of its SalesCamp program with its Automation and Digital Agricultural Specialist program, which trains participants in the technological and digital aspects of farming. Think drones, geographic information systems, Internet of things and robotics.
“We’ve also run a cybersecurity program in the past,” says Tibando. “Through SalesCamp, we’ve developed this core framework for designing successful upskilling programs, and that framework has also become the basis for the external delivery partners we work with.”
Practical skills training to help participants succeed
Gray, who signed up for SalesCamp in 2022, recalls doing mock cold calls and learning critical skills such as how to handle a customer’s objections and, most importantly, how to close a deal.
“The program was set up so that you did the things you would actually experience as a tech salesperson,” she says. “It was a great way to make sure you come away from the program with the skills you need to succeed in this role.”
In addition to teaching her skills for B2B tech sales, SalesCamp helped Gray get ready to enter the job market by providing support with résumé and cover letter creation, interview preparation and networking strategies. Gray also got access to job postings and received one-on-one-coaching and weekly check-ins with “accountability partners.”
Just weeks after she completed SalesCamp, Gray landed a part-time role in B2B tech sales. In April 2023, she was hired as a full-time sales development representative by a tech company with offices in Canada and the United States.
“My life has completely changed from a year ago,” says Gray. “I love what I do, I doubled my income in a year, and I now have more than a job – I have a career I can really grow in.”
To learn more about the TD Ready Commitment and how we're supporting organizations and initiatives like the Palette Skills program, read the most recent issue of the TD Corporate Citizenship quarterly newsletter.