How Barclays is helping tackle youth unemployment

Find out Barclays plans to help one million young people gain life skills

14 May 2014 / Be the first to comment

Barclays is hoping to help one million young people transition from education to work by 2015.

Their Head of Corporate Affairs, Kirstie Mackey, talks about the new LifeSkills programme and how it's already making a difference.

Skills for the future

When I was at 16 I went out and did two weeks’ work experience after school in a PR agency and at a market research company. Those two weeks really helped me work out what I wanted to do as a career and helped me to focus on what I liked and didn’t like about the workplace environment. Work experience is all about getting to understand the business world and meeting people – and that is still really important to help young people get a foot in the door. But that kind of work experience is harder to come by now and Saturday jobs for school-age children are getting rarer, so Barclays’ LifeSkills programme is really necessary to equip young people for the career they want in the future. 

Not prepared for work

We’re trying to help one million young people to transition successfully from education to work by 2015. When we launched in May last year we did a lot of research to find out what key issues were affecting our staff and customers. We looked at youth unemployment rates, which were then just under one million, and discovered from research that businesses weren’t recruiting young people because they didn’t believe they were work-ready. The idea behind our LifeSkills programme is that we try and get young people work-ready with the backdrop of a school environment, between the ages of 11 and 19. 

More than 1000 apprentices

Barclays is really passionate about youth employment. For a while we have been one of the leaders in the apprenticeship field and we’ve got over 1,000 apprentices. It’s also our responsibility as a bank – we’re looking at our future workforce as well. We want to make sure the LifeSkills programme means we can start to get a number of young people to come and do work experience with us, who might then come back and do an apprenticeship with us as well. It’s so important for young people to get really good work experience and something they can talk about when they go for a job interview. 

Joining forces

Getting more young people from school into work is the responsibility of all of us. It’s such a big and important issue, no one company and no one government department can tackle youth unemployment on its own. The whole ethos behind LifeSkills is that we want to collaborate with other businesses and with other education bodies and charities. There are so many people out there doing fantastic work in careers provision and employability but there’s no one joining it together. Barclays is trying to join forces with as many people as possible to make it easier for teachers, young people, businesses and parents to access careers advice, work experience and skills provision during the school years. 

Gaining confident to perform

We’ve come up with three core modules: people, work skills and money skills. We found that when we have taken on apprentices in the past, many of them didn’t know how to act in a workplace environment because they have never worked before and their parents weren’t working, so some of them would turn up late, not turn up every day or spend ages on their phones. The ‘people’ module is about giving young people the confidence to know what they’re doing when they enter a situation like this.  

Developing work skills

In ‘work skills’, young people get practical tips on how to find a job, CV building, interview techniques and networking. The last module, ‘money skills’, is about learning how to understand your first pay cheque and how to budget. All these programmes are available for schools to use as a mixture of lesson plans or workshops. The teacher will then do everything themselves or ask a Barclays volunteer to come in and run the sessions. 

Recognised and respected

More than 4,000 schools, colleges and youth clubs have signed up to LifeSkills so far and 5,580 teachers have registered for the programme. City & Guilds has endorsed all of our materials for workshops and lesson plans. We wanted teachers to be able to recognise that the programme had been reviewed and approved by an independent body – the City & Guilds accreditation is something we felt would be recognised and respected by the business community.  

Reaching one million

Already we’ve reached 317,000 young people and we’re well on the way to reaching our target of one million by 2015. For me, the success is in the numbers and through the impact we’re already having on young people’s lives. Going forward, we want to deepen the content in the modules. We’re introducing a ‘digital citizenship’ module that will be available in May, which looks at how young people can safeguard themselves and their career progression when it comes to using Facebook and LinkedIn, but also looks at how they can promote themselves on social media to get jobs. We’re also looking at enterprise as another route of work to get young people to think about going into business themselves.

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