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On May 20, San Francisco-based tech giant Salesforce.com Inc. showcased to the public its newest namesake tower—Salesforce Tower Indianapolis.

It was Salesforce's latest local milestone in a journey that began almost four years when it announced its deal to acquire ExactTarget for $2.5 billion. ExactTarget had about 1,000 local employees at the time. Today, Salesforce officials said, its Indianapolis headcount exceeds 1,600.

screenshotSalesforce CEO Marc Benioff was in town for the grand opening, and he spoke with IBJ about the company's plans to train 500 apprentices and hire additional exployees, as well as his vision for having all local employees—now scattered across three buildings—in the tower. The conversation, edited for brevity and clarity, follows:

IBJ: Back in 2014 you told IBJ you wanted a tower in Indianapolis. Now it's here. How does it feel?

BENIOFF: Well, we've never been more excited about Indianapolis, and we've never been more excited about Salesforce. We have our tower here and we now have the ability to fulfill our dream to become not only Indiana's largest tech employer but also to help develop the future of Indiana's workforce with our next-generation apprenticeship program that we plan to pilot right here in Indianapolis.

IBJ: How will that program work?

BENIOFF: We know that the requirements for the workforce of the future are changing dramatically, and rapid advancements in technology—whether it's cloud computing or artificial intelligence—mean that there's going to be a vast retraining of individuals looking for new jobs.

As part of that, we've made a new system that’s available online called Trailhead. And Trailhead is a one-to-one learning system that helps people gain expertise in using our Salesforce platform. And we have hundreds of thousands of people on that system today. It's a very exciting online capability, and we are going to do that in a physical way with a Trailhead apprenticeship program. We're going to bring people into our company and provide that exact same knowledge that Trailhead provides to them virtually.

IBJ: What prompted this?

BENIOFF: We want to be the key people to provide that Salesforce knowledge to these people who we call Trailblazers. I'll tell you that of the top 10 jobs in the U.S. that are available now in the tech industry, two are Salesforce jobs. One is Salesforce administrator and the other is Salesforce developer. Indeed published that survey, and if you want those high-paying jobs, you need these Salesforce skills. We've taken factory workers and even ministers and we've been able to give them these valuable skills to transform their lives.

This is really important. The world is changing rapidly, especially with respect to technology—everybody realizes that. We don't want anybody to be left behind, so we need to provide both online and in-person training at scale, and we plan to headquarter that right out of Indianapolis.

IBJ: Who are the types of people you plan to target for this and what's your goal? Do you plan to hire them?

BENIOFF: It's across the board, and if you look on the Trailhead website, you'll see the wide variety of people from different industries who have made this decision to learn these skills and how it's impacted their lives. Those are not our employees. Those are users of this technology; they work for customers of this technology. 

IBJ: What are some the features of Salesforce Tower Indianapolis?

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