Barclays - Finalist for The Unipart Award for Outstanding Employment

Barclays has invested £6m in its apprenticeships programme
  • The bank has saved more than £2m in recruitment costs
  • It has changed the concept of what an apprenticeship could and should be

Heard of an apprenticeship programme with no upper age limit? Thought not…

Barclays’ apprenticeship programme began as a way to broaden out the demographic of the business. But it has become much more important than that. Here’s why.

Our apprenticeships have changed the outlook of entire communities. They’ve provided a future to disadvantaged people of every background and age. They’ve inspired other businesses. They’ve even influenced political thinking.”

These are bold statements by Barclays, the consumer, corporate and investment bank which operates in more than 40 countries employing around 130,000 people. And it is a business clearly proud of its apprenticeships programme it says has not only boosted retention rates across the company and tackled a big elephant in the room: the dearth of opportunities for those with little or no work experience.

The numbers speak for themselves. Since 2012, the bank has created more than 3,000 apprenticeships, and offered 2,500 young people a traineeships – 273 of whom have gone on to become a Barclays apprentice and 334 who have confirmed that they used what they’d learned to secure a job somewhere else.

Transferring NEET into employment

And of those that gained a Barclays traineeship, 100 per cent have been from a NEET (not in education, employment or training) background, 40 per cent had been unemployed for 12 months, 69 per cent were from a disadvantaged area, and 8 per cent had no prior learning attainment at all.

So, what was the initial driver of such a programme? Well, it was designed to address a “drastic shortage of young talent in our business”. In 2012, the business had fewer than 300 employees under the age of 21, employee turnover was up to 70 per cent in some entry-level roles and diversity was poor.

At the same time unemployment rates – and youth unemployment in particular – had peaked at a 17-year high across the UK. “Our Apprenticeships were a lifeline for all those who had never been given a chance or had been left behind. Even with no education, qualifications or training, our Apprentices could gain a recognised qualification while taking their first steps in the working world,” says the bank.

“All we looked for was potential, and the more we reached out to overlooked communities, the more the programme thrived.”

This was not only about overturning misconceptions about the banking industry and opening up careers to a wider, more diverse range of people. Barclays also wanted to overhaul the concept of what an apprenticeship could and should be.

As such, the programmes has seen the business remove qualification and experience requirements, as well as age restrictions. So a Barclays Apprenticeship is a viable option for every excluded group – from the retired and those who’ve been made redundant to ex-military, the homeless, and young disadvantaged people. The only specific target that has been set it to offer 15 per cent of apprenticeships to people with disabilities.

Big investment into apprenticeship programme

In 2015 (the latest year with available figures), the bank invested £6m in its apprenticeships programme, giving 11 full-time employees the responsibility to deliver and develop all of the programmes – ranging from the aforementioned traineeships and foundation apprenticeships (for those with limited education and work experience), to progression apprenticeships (the next step after a foundation apprenticeship for those who want to focus on a specific area of the business), higher Apprenticeships, for high-potential graduates or school-leavers) and bolder apprenticeships (for those over 24).

Each business area has an executive sponsor and HR director involvement, with regular business steering groups helping to keep the programme in line with current business needs and the aspirations of the apprentices.

And there are clear business benefits to be had from this approach. Thanks to impressive apprenticeship retention rates, Barclays has saved more than £2m in recruitment costs and avoided expensive contractor fees, as well as the cost of advertising for entry-level roles.

And although winning business was never a key objective, it is an initiative that has apparently been critical to Barclays winning many high-value local authority tenders, including more than 50 councils that use the bank for their day-to-day banking.

But it has also been a chance for Barclays to create a workforce that truly reflects the society in which it operates – benefiting from the experience of returning retirees, the enthusiasm of school-leavers, and the fresh ideas of people from every walk of life.

“When the communities in which we live and work thrive, we do too,” says CEO Jes Staley. “And when society prospers, we all do. Barclays has always played a part in driving economic growth and social progress. And today, we have more opportunity to play a pivotal role in fostering innovation and facilitating inclusive, shared growth for all – now and as we develop the future of banking.”