Barclays - Finalist in the Aviva Award for Championing an Ageing Workforce

Barclays’ opens door for older-generation to make the most of apprenticeships

Barclays has opened its apprenticeship doors to everyone
  • Barclays’ older ratio has grown from 4 per cent to 20 per cent of apprentices
  • The company has saved over £2 million in recruitment costs
  • Its one-size-fits-all apprenticeships are now its USP

Recognising that unemployment is not merely a youth issue, 50 per cent of the bank’s apprenticeship demand is likely to come from older-generation talent in 2017.


When thinking about apprentices, we often picture someone bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and probably in their late teens or early twenties. And that makes sense when employers have been able to leverage part or full government funding for 16-24 year olds, with youth unemployment as a societal backdrop.

In 2012, Barclays started its apprenticeships to address a drastic shortage of young talent in its business. But at early recruitment events – when the bank had to regularly turn away over-24s who desperately needed them – it became clear that today’s youth isn’t the only demographic suffering from the woes of unemployment.

Once out of work, older workers face a much tougher task to find the opportunities to get back into full employment again.

Opening doors to all

Fast-forward to 2015, and Barclays opened its apprenticeship doors to everyone, including its first grandmother. What began with a cohort of just five candidates in northwest London has grown into 70 Bolder Apprentices across the business, all of whom were formerly unemployed, many for over a year.

Bolder Apprentices join Barclays with no more than one A-Level (or equivalent) or less than a Level 2 qualification, after being out of work or “underemployed” (doing less than 16 hours a week).

The programme starts with a traineeship – 10 days of full-time, classroom-based training focused on basic employability skills, such as customer service, digital awareness, confidence and core skills. This is followed by a one-week work placement of coaching and further learning support.

The biggest challenge is perception, says Shaun Meekins, Head of Operations for early careers at Barclays. After all, a quick Google search for apprenticeships illustrates the target is squarely for 16-18 year olds. “Many older generation candidate groups, including return to work parents, carers, redundant communities, forced retirees, wouldn’t necessarily consider an apprenticeship because they are socially labelled for a young community.”

Nevertheless, the demand from the business for Bolder Apprenticeships is now overtaking that for traditional apprenticeships. “We are likely to see a minimum of 50 per cent of our Apprentice demand in 2017 coming from older-generation talent and potential,” says Meekins.

In order to access these older generation individuals, Barclays established new relationships with specialist organisations like Age UK, Prime Candidates and Remploy.

There are some clear imperatives; Barclays recognises the need to increase diversity, and it knows that the success of its business is inextricably linked to that of other businesses and the strength of the wider economy.

Since launching its Bolder programme in 2015, Barclays’ older ratio has grown from 4 per cent to 20 per cent of apprentices, equipping older employees with new skills, fresh confidence and a more aspirational outlook.

The apprenticeship has given me back a sense of worth, which tends to evaporate when you’ve been unemployed for a time

- Brian,
,” says Brian, one of the Bolder Apprentices. “And now that I’m working directly with customers, I’ve discovered that I’m actually quite good with people. One customer recently told me that she makes a point of coming to me because I’m a ‘calming influence.’”

That calming influence may be just an example of the depth of customer empathy, level of inner confidence and range of transferable skills Bolder Apprenticeships brings to their work. Indeed, line managers have found that the diverse life experiences of Bolder Apprentices make them better equipped to offer greater empathy to customers and more effective advice.

Building inclusivity

Barclays one-size-fits-all apprenticeships are now its USP, which are delighting its customers, says Meekins. “We are building a message that apprenticeships are all inclusive, irrelevant of age, background or qualification.”

Thanks to impressive apprenticeship retention rate across all its apprenticeship programmes, Barclays has saved over £2 million in recruitment costs, while sidestepping expensive contractor fees and the cost of advertising for entry-level roles.

“This is more than positively impacting unemployment statistics; this is about giving young apprentices a foot in the door, and older apprentices a second chance to thrive in a supportive, development environment and grow,” says Meekins. “The industry is missing out of mass-potential, powerful transferrable skills and the opportunity to diversify talent in an ever-evolving industry.”