The Covid-19 pandemic changed the world, and St John Ambulance, like the millions of other businesses, found themselves having to close their doors, that is until the NHS approached St John Ambulance asking for help with the forthcoming vaccine rollout. As a result, St John Ambulance faced the mammoth task of recruiting, training, and deploying a high volume of volunteers in a short space of time. With the biggest recruitment drive in St John’s history ahead of them, the management team contacted Reach in October 2020 with a proposal to build a dedicated recruitment system to process all applicants that wished to sign up to be a volunteer with a launch date projected for the end of November 2020.
With the objective laid out to build a recruitment system that can process 300,000 applicants, it was time for the Reach tech team to get to work. It quickly became clear that the project was going to be greater than the initial task. St John Ambulance required a career microsite, a way to pre-screen applicants to ensure that the NHS strict requirements were met, scheduling tens of thousands of interviews and online testing, organising and booking training days, progressing the high volume of candidates through to onboarding, and ensuring that all candidates passed the relevant checks to meet the NHS guidelines.
With a short deadline to build, rigorously test and implement the recruitment system, Reach’s technical team worked tirelessly to achieve the objective. Communication was key to the project being a resounding success, with daily briefings between Reach’s Managing Director, Tony Cox, St John Ambulance’s Head of Delivery, Andrea Noble, and many other St John Ambulance departments to discuss the developments of the fast-moving project.
Reach’s Tony Cox said that some of the biggest hurdles the team faced during development included the changing requirements and specifications of the project this included new training and qualifications being implemented in the system as new vaccines were approved by UK medicines regulator MHRA. Reach was continuously worked on as feature requests began to come in from system users, requests were scoped, designed, tested, and delivered within days of requests being submitted.
As a result of the hard work and dedication of the team Reach hit the deadline and the system went live as planned in November 2020. St John Ambulance projected 300,000 applicants to sign up and within hours tens of thousands of candidates were in the system, the Reach system was able to handle such high demand through integrating with Microsoft Azure. St John Ambulance were recruiting volunteer vaccinators, vaccination care volunteers and volunteer patient advocates. To ensure that candidates met the strict selection criteria mandated by the NHS, the career microsite created by Reach implemented a pre-questionnaire that was able to sift out unsuitable candidates. The Reach recruitment system was also able to sift applicant’s locations and experience and recommend positions that would be suitable for them to apply for.
The number of applicants exceeded all expectations and St John Ambulance met their initial recruitment target of volunteers earlier than planned, with the first volunteer administering a vaccine on January 11th, 2021.
When asked about the achievement of the Reach system supporting one of the biggest recruitment drives in British history, Tony Cox said, “It was a great honour to be asked to partner with St John Ambulance on their biggest programme yet, to support the NHS vaccination administration across the UK. I am incredibly proud of our magnificent team and the wonderful recruitment system that helped to deliver 27,000 fully trained volunteers on schedule, in record time.”