Cloud tech takes Local Learning and Employment to the next level

Cloud capabilities made possible through Microsoft Office 365 are helping a Victorian Local Learning and Employment Network continue its critical work in supporting schools, community organisations and local businesses to engage with and support young people who might otherwise disengage from education. 

Since migrating its business to Office 365, Wimmera Southern Mallee Local Learning and Employment Network (WSMLLEN) has been able to increase efficiencies by adopting the innovative technologies required for it to remain agile and connected with the expansive region it serves. 

Located in the regional city of Horsham, approximately 300 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, WSMLLEN is one of just 31 Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs) in Victoria, and covers a huge region of more than 28,000 square kilometres.  

With just six staff to coordinate activities across such an expansive area, the team at WSMLLEN needs the best technology possible to deliver quality outcomes for the communities they serve through programs such as their MATES Mentoring and Let’s Read initiatives.  

WSMLLEN Administration Officer Lorraine Merton says the new cloud capabilities made possible through Office 365 have been a game changer. 

The new software was obtained through the Australian not-for-profit tech company Connecting Up, which through its donations and discounts programs works provides not-for-profits with access to a variety of products, resources and programs that might not otherwise be possible. 

“The new system resulted in staff being able to share calendars and contacts, and to access their email on mobile devices when out of the office,” she says. “This feature alone greatly improved efficiency.”  

MATES Mentoring matches students (mentees) in schools with volunteer mentors from the local community, providing positive role models who mentor, assist, target, engage and enhance the skills and life experiences of young people.  

More than 450 MATES mentor-mentee relationships have formed since the program’s inception in 2010. The Let’s Read program, meanwhile, supports the literacy development of pre-school children across all four shires of the WSMLLEN service region.  

Given WSMLLEN’s remoteness, coupled with a large service area, staff often travel long distances to deliver programs and to attend meetings.  

Online collaboration tools and the ability to video conference with Skype for Business available through Office 365, helps to alleviate this burden. Online tools to facilitate collaboration on joint LLEN programs are also vital.  

The Structured Workplace Learning (SWL) program, a statewide LLEN initiative funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training, provides on-the-job training during which students master skills or competencies related to a course accredited by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) or the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and undertaken as part of either the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) or the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). 

WSMLLEN first transitioned to Office 365 after attending a Microsoft Connecting Communities: Cloud Computing for Nonprofits workshop in Ballarat, run in partnership with Microsoft, Connecting Up and Infoxchange. 

With live demonstrations of key features including Office Web Apps, hosted e-mail, document sharing, video conferencing and collaboration tools, Lorraine could see instantly the benefits the cloud technology would bring to the organisation.

“Prior to the changeover, we had no capacity to share our e-mail, calendars and contacts, and no backup for any e-mails and calendars,” says Ms Merton. 

“All of this information was stored locally on each employee’s individual hard drive and backed up manually. We were aware of the risk in the case of the failure of someone’s hard drive.  

“I’m very excited about moving to the cloud and the potential benefits for our organisation. I’ve shifted from tentative, hesitant, nervous to excited in one, 3-hour session.” 

About Connecting Up:

Connecting Up is a not-for-profit organisation that connects other not-for-profit organisations with critical software, digital technology, advice and training that many would otherwise not be able to access.
Our services are available in Australia and New Zealand. We also help to develop relationships with business, community and government sectors for the development of the not-for-profit sector.

Find out more about our donations program here.
Find out more about our discounts program here.