Mike Thompson, Head of Apprenticeships at Barclays

As the Apprenticeship Levy approaches, more and more people are shining a spotlight on apprenticeships and discussing the role they will play in the lives of individuals and businesses in the future.

Whilst most of the discussion has been around the impact the levy will have on businesses, I think now is an important time for businesses to reconsider how they find and train new staff – and who those people are. The levy should be seen as an opportunity to make apprenticeship schemes a viable and open option to all regardless of age, race, gender, disabilities or social-economic background.

I’m proud to say that Barclays has been a pioneer in ensuring people from all walks of life are given an opportunity to start a new and rewarding career through an apprenticeship. For example, in September 2015, we launched our Bolder scheme, the first ever apprenticeship to be available specifically for those over the age of 24 who have been out of work for more than 12 months.

The scheme has been very successful, with over 65 apprentices recruited so far. It has given a new lease of life to many people who were looking to find a rewarding career later in life, but had faced barriers to achieving this, such as age discrimination and a lack of confidence.

One apprentice who has had her life changed by the scheme is Angela Bovell, a 52 year old Community Banker at Bayswater Branch. She was one of the first ever recruits and had been unemployed for twelve months prior to joining us. Before becoming a Bolder Apprentice, Angela struggled to get back into work having taken time off to care for her elderly father, and was missing the hustle and bustle of work life. She urges employers and older people to recognise that you really never are too old to learn new tricks, and that it is important to always give people a chance.

The success of the Bolder Apprenticeship scheme really shows that the older workforce has a lot of skills they can offer businesses and it is really important to be utilising them. As businesses adapt to the levy, they need to be thinking of apprenticeships as a scheme they can use to utilise as many people as they possibly can.

Apprenticeships can also offer a new route into employment for people from disadvantaged social or economic backgrounds, who for varying reasons do not have the opportunity or support to pursue the career they want. At Barclays, our Foundation Apprenticeships don’t necessarily require any qualifications or work experience and we make decisions on a case-by-case basis, with the belief that everyone deserves a fair chance.

This is something we embrace across all of our apprenticeship scheme within Barclay and it’s so exciting to see the difference this can make. Before taking on a higher apprenticeship, Jamala Osman (now the branch manager at Hatton Garden in the city community, London) had a tough start in life and was on her own at the age of 16, living with friends and struggling at school. Despite this, she was determined to find a job she loved and have a successful career. Her enthusiasm, combined with the support she received from Barclays throughout her scheme led to her becoming our youngest ever mortgage advisor.

Finally, an important part of the workforce that should benefit from the levy are those with disabilities. Helping provide access to jobs for people with a disability is key at Barclays, and our tailored and supportive approach for recruiting has seen us employ a higher percentage than ever before. Although there has been a focus on this across the business, we have been working particularly hard to ensure our apprenticeship schemes are a viable options for this group of people.

Behinds the scenes, we’ve been working hard to expand our apprenticeship programmes to be make them even more accessible to everyone. We are currently trialling a paid internship we are calling Able to Enable working with Remploy to help individuals with a range of hidden disabilities gain valuable experience and get into apprenticeships at Barclays. We hope to expand this programme substantially this year to help target this particular issue.

Mike Thompson, Head of Apprenticeships at Barclays

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