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Zendesk Agents of Change program: Empowering communities with CX agent training

The Zendesk Agents of Change program celebrates nearly 200 agents trained and five new partners at the start of 2024. Learn more about the unique program, the success stories, and what the future holds.

By Subarna Ganguly, Staff Writer

Last updated June 27, 2024

The Zendesk Agents of Change program partners with nonprofit organizations that offer workforce development training and upskilling services to historically marginalized or underrepresented adult communities.

Agents of Change was launched in 2021 by the Zendesk Tech for Good team. The program provides grant funding, free Zendesk software, and free certification exams to nonprofit organizations so they can provide skills-based learning to students from underserved communities.

Since its inception, the program has certified nearly 200 agents through six programs spanning five continents, including launching the first admin-level course with Instituto da Oportunidade Social (IOS) in Brazil.

Empowered lives, brighter future

According to the Harvard Business School report, Dismissed by Degrees, college degrees are increasingly becoming an essential requirement for middle-skill jobs. OneTen reports that nearly two-thirds of Americans who do not have four-year college degrees are losing access to middle-skills roles that are drivers of economic mobility, creating an opportunity gap for skilled workers. This untapped talent pool—upwards of 70M+ Americans—is widely diverse and includes veterans, caregivers, rural workers, and workers in roles vulnerable to automation.

Offering upskilling opportunities to this pool of potential workers is an opportunity for tech companies, including Zendesk. Upskilling programs provide more people with pathways to family-sustaining careers, helping to close the economic opportunity gap. It also provides employers with a larger, more diverse talent pool.

The Zendesk Agents of Change program is on a mission to break down these barriers and encourage employers to adopt a skills-first strategy for hiring. It’s empowering job seekers with upskilling opportunities to enhance their access to higher-paying jobs within the technology industry and specifically with Zendesk customers. Alana Ramo, director of the Agents of Change program, explains why this work is so vital:

“Zendesk helps nonprofit organizations train students with backgrounds in traditional customer service so they can enter into new careers with tech-enabled companies and access more opportunities. This program is a win for our customers who need skilled voices on their advocacy and support teams to respond to the diverse needs of their client base.”

The Agents of Change program works hand in hand with nonprofit training partners—including KindWork, NPower, and StreetCode Academy in the US and IOS and Skills2Work in the Asia-Pacific region—to help underrepresented communities enter the workforce with technology and digital training. The program includes customer service training, free Zendesk Suite donations, free curriculum materials, and access to Zendesk subject matter experts. It also offers employee engagement opportunities.

Key milestones in the Tech for Good Career Pathways program

  • Nearly 200 students graduated since 22’

  • 137 agents certified since 22’

  • Nearly $3.5M in total wages earned for graduates to date

Partner organizations use Zendesk to provide a real-world test environment for their students to engage in hands-on learning using demo support tickets and interactions. The comprehensive customer service training program has enabled students from underserved communities to significantly boost their self-sufficiency, skill set, and profile on the job market while providing alternative routes to family-sustaining income.

Jeanine Mendez, the co-founder of KindWork, explains why the program is so powerful and life-changing for its students:

“We teach our students the Zendesk platform because if you look at all the customer support jobs in NYC, at least 50 percent to 75 percent will say ‘Zendesk skills preferred.’ If you know how to use Zendesk and can put that on a resume, it will propel you pretty far. We consciously built our program to prepare students to become Zendesk masters.”

A winning partnership: Zendesk and NPower Community Helpdesk

NPower is a US-based nonprofit organization that strives to create pathways to economic prosperity by launching digital careers for military veterans and young adults from underserved communities.

The NPower Community Helpdesk enables its apprentices to gain on-the-job experience as first-time tech support professionals by delivering quality customer service, communications, references, and a plethora of other resources. With Zendesk, they also gain key insights into the technology needs of the community thanks to robust reporting capabilities.

Matt Velez, the executive director of the National Instructors Institute at NPower, describes how Zendesk has supported the organization:

“Zendesk has been a critical partner in supporting the day-to-day operations of our national Community Helpdesks in Baltimore, Maryland, St. Louis, Missouri, and Dallas. Through the Zendesk platform, NPower can effectively capture and respond to the many tech support requests made by local community residents who rely on our help desk services for digital support.”

Access to Zendesk certification tracks has also been a major resource for apprentices to earn in-demand certifications to help support their career growth and marketability as tech professionals.

NPower has expanded its presence across the United States and is now able to support a wider community of apprentices with on-the-job experience and certification tracks to launch their digital careers in key markets.

“Zendesk makes it easy for our partner organizations to grow and scale,” says Sam Kind, senior manager of Agents of Change. “The flexibility of the platform and the easy learning environment help our partners train more students and grow to new cities. For example, NPower is taking their Zendesk Baltimore training program to two new cities this year: St. Louis and Dallas.”

NPower recruits two apprentices in each of its markets for a 12-week apprenticeship opportunity every quarter. Velez shares the success story of Mikenzhie Smith, who joined the apprenticeship program in the spring of 2023. Mikenzhie has since earned her Zendesk CX Omnichannel Agent certification and was hired full-time by NPower as the Community Help Desk coordinator in Baltimore, where she now trains and mentors incoming apprentices on daily operations, customer support, and partnership engagement.

“With Mikenzhie being a prime example of the life-changing work we are doing through the National Community Help Desks, we can envision our help desk operations being entirely managed and supported by NPower alumni across the country. Our partnership with Zendesk can surely make this possible,” says Velez.

Vision for the future

The Zendesk Agents of Change program is currently working its magic across the world in alliance with nonprofit partners such as Skills2Work and Passerelles Numériques in Asia-Pacific; Instituto Da Oportunidade Social, Laboratoria, Somas Projetos Sociais, and Fundación Compromiso in Latin America; Jobcare and the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) in Europe; and Nairobits and WAVE in Africa.

The program has ambitious goals for the future. By 2024, the Agents of Change program aims to have 300 agents certified, get 80 percent of those certified graduates hired within 12 months of their training, and garner $10 million in total wages for those graduates. For the program, the journey to change lives has only just begun.

Learn more about our Tech for Good Agents of Change program and sign up now to hire our recent graduates.

Zendesk Agents of Change Global Partners

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