apprenticeshipsI was pleased to read the report out this week from ICM Research for the National Apprenticeship Service which shows businesses are realising the benefits that apprenticeships can offer. The research found that employers in England rate qualified apprentices 15% more employable than those with other qualifications. This provides clear recognition that the business community value apprenticeships as a viable route into work.  However, for apprenticeships to be properly considered by school-leavers, we need to ensure that young people value them as highly as businesses do, and that every young person has the potential to access an apprenticeship straight from school.

Firstly, apprenticeships still carry a stigma. The Barclays Youth Barometer found that a third of young people aged between 14 and 19 view apprenticeships as either a backup option to university or thought they were not relevant to today’s jobs market. Only 10% said they were the best way to start a career.

More needs to be done to ensure young people, their parents and teachers appreciate the career opportunities that can be realised through an apprenticeship and that the number and range of opportunities continues to increase. This in turn will help stimulate demand from candidates. Meeting this demand relies on businesses of all sizes and from all sectors realising they have a role to play. To help we’ve launched Bridges into Work, which will support businesses across England create local apprenticeships. We’ve pledged to support the creation of 10,000 apprenticeships and at the same time, doubled the number of apprenticeships we’ll offer to 2,000.

There is a second issue that also concerns me when it comes to apprenticeships. Figures out last month showed that the number of young apprentices, those aged 16-18, dropped 12% in early 2013 compared to the same time last year. In contrast, the overall number of apprenticeships rose 6.5% for the same period. This is attributed to an increasingly competitive market, where less experienced school-leavers are overlooked in favour of those with previous experience. It points to a worrying fact that too many young people leave school without the right skills to start their careers, effectively closing off their options, including apprenticeships. Without training in essential workplace skills, and help navigating the opportunities on offer, many young people are destined to fall short of their job aspirations.

The Barclays Apprenticeship programme addresses this issue by including pre-apprenticeship training to ensure candidates are ready for the workplace. But, recognising that more has to be done at an earlier age, we’ve also just launched LifeSkills, a curriculum linked programme that will help young people develop the skills they need to be successful in work. As part of it, we’re bringing schools and young people together with local businesses with a goal of equipping one million young people with the skills they need to be successful in the workplace by 2015. This will include creating 50,000 work experience opportunities this year alone. I’m delighted that companies including McDonalds, Waitrose, ISS, Centrica, are already on board as partners. We’d like to encourage businesses of all sizes to do the same, sign up and offer work experience that can transform the confidence and outlook of young people.

What’s clear in all this is the vital role that business has to play in ensuring that more young people move successfully from school into employment. We recognise real change cannot be achieved by one party alone, which is why we’re committed to doing all we can and creating more ways for businesses to get involved.

About the author

Lynne has been with Barclays since 2005 and HR Director for UK Retail & Business Bank since 2009. She heads a 400 strong HR function for the UK Retail business comprising 15 million customers, 34,000 colleagues and 1,600 branches.

Prior to Barclays Lynne spent three years at AVIVA in HR within the Life and Pensions business. Previous to that she was at Yorkshire Electricity for 11 years as HR Director, supporting the business through privatisation, with the significant skills and cultural transformation required to drive success in a highly competitive, low margin industry.

Lynne is passionate about diversity and inclusivity in talent management and culture; and engagement in driving business performance. She lives Kent and has been married for 25 years, with one daughter.

Barclays is a major global financial services provider engaged in retail banking, credit cards, corporate and investment banking and wealth management with an extensive international presence in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.  With over 300 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays operates in over 50 countries and employees nearly 147,000 people.  Barclays moves, lends, invests and protects money for 48 million customers and clients worldwide.