Barclays’ Youth Employment Initiative recognised at Personnel Today Awards 2016

The Personnel Today Awards’ Youth Employment Initiative category recognises organisations going the extra mile to engage and develop 16 to 24-year-olds, whether through apprenticeships, traineeships or graduate schemes. Barclays Bank takes the 2016 prize and here is their entry, along with our runners-up.


Barclays Bank

About the organisation
With over 325 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays operates in over 50 countries and employs approximately 140,000 people worldwide.

The challenge
Barclays wanted to address the society-wide issue that many 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK leave school with few or no qualifications. Even children with outstanding GCSE results can struggle finding their feet in an over-saturated jobs market, leaving those without any qualifications with nowhere to go.

Youth Employment Initiative – the judges

Dr Emma Parry, Cranfield School of Management
Laura-Jayne Rawlings, Youth Employment UK

Within the business itself, Barclays struggled to hold onto younger colleagues. In 2012, the youth unemployment rate stood at 21.9% and Barclays had fewer than 300 colleagues under the age of 21. They needed a stronger talent pipeline to attract new passion and ambition into the business; an initiative to help attract and support new staff, the young minds with the potential to become tomorrow’s leaders.

What the organisation did

  • Launched the Barclays apprenticeship programme in 2012, designed to offer young people who might not have any experience or qualifications the training to bring out their talent.
  • Looked beyond usual criteria by not asking for qualifications or experience – just potential.
  • The programme allows young people to build their own careers. The pre-employment traineeship programme is designed to help those with little or no experience learn the basic skills to get work-ready.
  • The Foundation Apprenticeship enables apprentices to spend up to two years exploring the business and gaining an A-Level qualification.
  • The 18-month ‘Progression Apprenticeship’ helps translate foundation training into a specialist role.
  • Finally, the Higher Apprenticeship allows young people with a year’s work experience or 200 UCAS points study for a degree or equivalent while they work – without the debt of university fees.

Benefits and achievements

  • Over four years, Barclays has honed its youth employment programme to reach and help more people.
  • Since launching the apprenticeship programme at its Liverpool SkyBranch, and promoting it at local job centres and local schools, the conversion rate from the traineeship to the Foundation Apprenticeship has gone from 40% to 90%. Barclays has enrolled 197 new colleagues, and will take on another 60 this year; 25% of those enrolled have graduated onto other programmes.
  • Former apprentices are enjoying promotions and approximately 30 existing SkyBranch colleagues have reassessed their own development and signed up to NVQs.
  • Seventy-six of the Liverpool apprentices have now graduated, with a ceremony at Westminster.
  • Traineeships have engaged almost 2,500 people from a NEET (not in Education, Employment, or Training) background – and 53% of those trainees were aged 16 to 18.
  • More than half (56%) of trainees came from BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) backgrounds, increasing diversity across the business.
  • “My apprentices have breathed new life and bravery into my team, creating better results for our business and interacting brilliantly with colleagues and customers alike.” – Steve, Community Banking Leader.

Judges’ comments
“Some great evidence of the impact on the community.”



About the organisation
Anchor is the UK’s largest non-for-profit provider of housing and care for the over 55s, with 9,500 colleagues supporting 40,000 older people to live their lives.

The challenge
Anchor faces huge challenges over the next five years, due to the demand for care workers growing faster than population growth. There aren’t enough young people entering the sector – the average age of the workforce is 42, and only 10% of workers are under 25. Forty per cent of newly recruited care workers leave within 12 months.

What the organisation did

  • Anchor has been delivering apprenticeships since June 2015. There are also opportunities to complete work experience and traineeships. Its vision is to grow the programme to 100 young apprentices per year and develop a Level 3 Apprenticeship.
  • Introduced the “Anchor Apprenticeship Academy” to attract more young people into the business, support Anchor’s growth ambitions and decrease resourcing costs.
  • The programme has been recognised by Skills for Care, Care Quality Commission (CQC) and David Way (former CEO of the National Apprenticeship Service).
  • Organised bi-weekly calls and quarterly review meetings with apprentices and managers to ensure they are happy and that the programme is running effectively.
  • Apprentices are supported by a strong network of mentors, buddies, ambassadors and assessors.

Benefits and achievements

  • Two per cent increase in the engagement score in the 2015/16 “Your Say” survey.
  • One per cent increase in customer satisfaction in the 2014/15 customer survey.
  • Listed in The Times as a Top 100 Employer.
  • Cost saving of £11,200 due to work being covered by apprentices rather than agency staff.
  • After three months in the role, apprentice Kayleigh Salt was an “Apprentice of the Year” finalist at the Care Awards 2015.
  • There is a 60% uptake from 16- to 18-year-olds.
  • “The apprenticeships scheme is a fantastic way to get people working in care. It means people are supported to learn about care and build the foundations for a great career.” Sally Warren, Deputy Chief Inspector, CQC.

Judges’ comments
“This is a high quality and comprehensive apprenticeship scheme with a clear benefit to the organisation.”

Barclays’ youth initiatives had an positive impact on local communities, impressing the judges

Babcock Clyde

About the organisation
Babcock employs more than 1,700 staff at HM Naval Base Clyde, and is responsible for operational maintenance and in-service support to ships and submarines.

The challenge
In 2013, a strategic review within Babcock Clyde highlighted two key issues; building capability and capacity and growing the organisation’s pipeline.

The company recognised that in order to meet the challenges of an ever-changing landscape, and to drive future business, apprentices needed more than the technical skills gained through the apprenticeship programme. They need to embrace change, face complexity, take ownership of situations and work with others effectively.

What the organisation did

  • Apprentices have been in place at Clyde since 1971. Currently, Babcock recruits 10 engineering apprentices per year onto a four-year apprenticeship at a cost of £92,600 per apprentice.
  • Created a learning framework that balances technical and behavioural skills.
  • Reformed the apprenticeship programme by structuring it around developing a “growth mindset”.
  • Engaged The Outward Bound Trust (TOBT) to create Babcock’s “Growth Mindset (GM)” programme; a unique programme with objectives and learning that links directly with the company’s eight guiding principles.
  • Senior leaders, line managers and external partners were consulted through the apprenticeship programme redevelopment to secure their continued engagement.
  • Supported wider stakeholder engagement with local schools to build home-grown talent.

Benefits and achievements

  • Developing fully rounded employees with a stronger sense of commitment and application – 80% complete their final year early (versus 20% pre-GM programme).
  • Early graduation generates immediate cost-savings of £79,000, which enables skilled apprentices to support the business productively, and has reduced external recruitment.
  • Four apprentices have been selected to work on a one-off air turbine pump project, which is testament to the quality of the apprentices. Previously, external contractors were employed resulting in costs and knowledge leaving Babcock Clyde. In recognition of their excellent attitude, technical competence and enthusiasm, these apprentices were nominated for the Clyde Safety Awards 2015.
  • Identified an opportunity for apprentices to become coaches to future junior apprentices themselves.
  • Qualitative data clearly indicates that apprentices have a clear understanding of, and learnt how to apply, a growth mindset; resulting in a marked change in their attitude towards their work and the behaviours they display in the workplace.
  • “There has been a paradigm shift in their attitude following the GM programme. They’re grasping what is expected of them, they want to do it and they want to prove to their stakeholders that they can do it” – SVQ assessor.

Judges’ comments
“This is a really innovative scheme due to its focus on growth mindsets. There are clear benefits to the organisational learner and the community.”


About the organisation
Fujitsu is a multi-national information technology equipment and services company that employs over 14,000 people in the UK and Ireland.

The challenge
Five years ago, despite recruiting around 50 graduates per year, the average age of the workforce was 40, predominantly white and male. Fujitsu needed to accelerate its social mobility strategy to ensure it could compete for digital skills in a fierce market. The company had no way of attracting “digital natives” and faced tough competition from industries who need young people and invest heavily in them.

What the organisation did

  • Continued with the award-winning graduate programme and develop an apprentice programme to sit alongside it. This evolved into three strands: an apprenticeship for new and existing employees; Degree Apprenticeships; and “Get Into Technology” with The Prince’s Trust.
  • Through the use of apprenticeships, young people who have chosen not to go to university can start a long and meaningful career in IT.
  • Offered apprenticeships to existing employees which helped to open up opportunities for career progression.
  • Adapted how Fujitsu interacted with potential candidates by using apps and social media interfaces that were developed by apprentices and graduates so that they were meeting their expectations.
  • Promoted different entry routes into the organisation and worked with CareerReady and JobCentre Plus to attract harder-to-reach candidates.
  • Ran the first “Get Into Technology” programme with The Prince’s Trust in 2016, providing a four-week boot camp for people from hard-to-reach groups who wouldn’t ordinarily get an opportunity to join an organisation like Fujitsu.

Benefits and achievements

  • Fujitsu now has a skilled, loyal, engaged and diverse workforce prepared to go the extra mile and enable the company to grow. The apprentice retention rate is 97.5%.
  • An average saving of £40,000 per hire on recruitment fees by promoting from within and creating entry level roles. This represents a saving of £9.8 million since 2012.
  • Created a highly skilled and fit for future workforce aligned to Fujitsu’s specific needs.
  • Seconding an apprentice to TechUK helped increased the focus on encouraging more females into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) roles.
  • The community of young people are key to business growth and deliver great value to the organisation.

Judges’ comments
“A strong apprenticeship programme that obviously has a significant impact on recruitment and employee engagement.”

Great Western Railway

About the organisation
Train operator Great Western Railway (GWR) employs more than 5,000 people across its network. Its trains call at 276 stations across the south of England and carries 97 million passengers a year.

The challenge
GWR’s need for skilled talent has never been so important, as significant changes to the network – including electrification and the Intercity Express Programme – draw nearer. Apprentices will play a central role in future recruitment plans, plugging key talent and skills gaps and enhancing teamwork and knowledge sharing throughout the business. A SWOT analysis in 2015 identified a lack of quality candidates going into station manager roles.

What the organisation did

  • Aligned the company’s apprenticeship offering with the key business strategies “Great people” and “Keeping communities prospering”.
  • Developed a scheme to build a pipeline of management talent.
  • Made the schemes more accessible to young people, whatever their background.
  • To plug the future skills gap, GWR worked in partnership with eResponse Training to develop an industry first station management qualification (the Aspire Programme). The new Trailblazer government apprenticeship standard has been integrated into this new scheme; and GWR is the first rail operator to trial the standards for the passenger industry.
  • The operations apprenticeship, engineering apprenticeship and ‘Aspire’ management apprenticeship includes formal qualification opportunities and are supported by senior leadership.
  • Introduced the Duke of Edinburgh Business Gold to the operations programme to address a greater need for community involvement.

Benefits and achievements

  • This past year, GWR have recruited a further 25 apprentices onto its schemes. These apprentices join an industry leading programme working in key areas of the business.
  • Of the 20 apprentices on the operations programme, there is a 100% success rate in the last year and a retention rate of 95% into roles within GWR.
  • In the engineering programme, GWR have seen a 90% success rate into mechanical and electrical roles within the network, compared to the national success rate of 68.8%.
  • The new Aspire programme is still in progress. The competence and level of the candidates has led to them actually running stations at an earlier stage than planned.
  • In the recent staff survey, 78% (up 6% on last year) believe that “We are supportive of each other in my team.”
  • GWR is the first UK train operator to offer operations apprenticeships to 16-year-olds.
  • The company has been identified as the lead train operation company for the Trailblazer standards, which NVQ, City & Guilds and IRO now mirror.

Judges’ comments
“A good range of programmes for apprentices and a clear link between the programmes, benefits and objectives.”

Transport for London (TfL)

About the organisation
Transport for London is a local government body responsible for the transport system in Greater London and employs over 25,000 staff. Every day, 20 million journeys are made across the network.

The challenge
Running the transport network takes a large dedicated team which is why having a solid pipeline of future talent is so important. In the context of a growing skills shortage in the transport sector, TfL needed to transform how it hired talent. It already had industry-leading apprenticeships and graduate schemes, but the problem remains that too few young people grow up wanting to work in the transport industry.

What the organisation did

  • Through the School Skills Programme, TfL shows primary school children or secondary school leavers what’s on offer from a career in transport.
  • Partnered with a host of sponsors to run a wide range of events and initiatives to communicate what the transport industry is about.
  • Worked on a project called “Inspire Engineering” with the London Transport Museum and Siemens to reach 6,000 primary and secondary school students. On the day, engineering ambassadors – TfL engineers and planners – offered guidance to inspire and inform young people about engineering as a potential career.
  • Recently launched the TfL Schools Challenge, which challenges school year 12 and 13 students to come up with their own ideas to improve TfL and, in return, the winners receive a work experience placement. In 2015, the company received 115 entries and 28 won placements.
  • Piloted a school leavers’ scheme in the road space management department where there was a growing skills shortage. This enables TfL to recruit and train people straight from school. School leavers were the perfect fit because they brought the right mix of future potential, digital savvy and enthusiasm.
  • To inspire the next generation of girls and boys, TfL led celebrations across the transport industry for 100 Years of Women in Transport and broke a Guinness World Record for the most simultaneous jumping high fives on National Women in Engineering Day.
  • Partnered with Network Rail, the Department for Transport (DfT), Crossrail Ltd, Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) to engage with young people in all kinds of innovative ways.
  • Created a toolkit providing the transport industry with an identity and a recognisable, appealing brand.

Benefits and achievements

  • “Inspire Engineering” reached 6,000 school students and the TfL Schools Challenge generated over 15,015 entries.
  • The pilot school leavers’ scheme has the biggest direct influence on the TfL business and its future. Eight young people have been hired to the road space management department.
  • The quality, quantity, diversity and interest of candidates means TfL are now looking to extend the scheme into other areas of the business. The scheme complements the company’s existing 19 apprenticeship and 17 graduate programmes.

Judges’ comments
“Some innovative outreach activity and useful partnerships to encourage young people into transport careers.”

Virgin Money

About the organisation
Virgin Money is a financial services brand, it currently has 4 million customers in the UK. Originally established under Virgin Direct in 1995, it rapidly expanded, rebranded as “Virgin Money” and purchased Northern Rock in 2012.

The challenge
Already having learnt a great deal about developing early careers through an apprenticeship programme and internal talent programme, the HR team wanted to extend this to local communities as part of its mission to make “everyone better off”. The challenge was to find a way to engage with local schools and councils in order to support students as they near the end of high school to ready themselves for the world of work, and life after school.

What the organisation did

  • In 2015, Virgin Money piloted the Strive2Thrive Challenge in partnership with Newcastle council, several local employers and two local high schools.
  • In a three-day workshop held during the summer holiday, a number of 14 to 16-year-olds got the chance to visit the Virgin Money office in Newcastle and receive development support aimed at readying them for the world of work and life in general.
  • Visited schools and talked about the event in assemblies.
  • Over three days the young people: learned how to write a brilliant CV; got the chance to practice interviews in groups; spent time talking with role models about how they’d built their careers; and took part in a board game focusing on the importance of managing their money.

Benefits and achievements

  • Through reaching out to the North East HR community through the CIPD, over 30 volunteers from a range of employers were inspired to get involved.
  • Will be rolling the approach out further in 2016 to support five further schools and a sixth form.
  • The metric that matters to Virgin Money is the assessment of the students’ confidence before and after the event. One said: “I feel more confident about my future because I have a better idea of what I want to do.”
  • An HR volunteer from Northumbria University was so impressed with the thought behind the event and the way it was run, that she has joined the Virgin Money team when a vacancy arose.
  • Built some great relationships with other businesses in the North East of England.
  • Built a positive brand with local schools and colleges as a proactive business that takes the lead to deliver extraordinary experiences for their children. Through this, Virgin Money hopes to continue to build relationships that will increase the flow of talent to the business.

Judges’ comments
“This is a fantastic initiative designed to support and develop the local community.”

Vision Express

About the organisation
Part of Europe’s largest optical retail group GrandVision, Vision Express opened its first store in 1988 in Newcastle and today has more than 390 stores nationwide.

The challenge
Vision Express identified a need to attract talented individuals at entry level into the organisation to help it continue to deliver a high standard of vision care to its customers. The company is keen to provide opportunities for young people opting for a skills route over traditional further/higher education.

What the organisation did

  • An apprenticeship scheme was established, taking its first recruits in February 2014. The retailer has invested extensively into it to ensure the scheme is a success.
  • Established target audience of individuals who are at least 16 years old, not in full or part-time education, able to work 30 hours a week over 13 months and who have a great attitude, plus a passion for learning and providing excellent customer service. The Level 2, Intermediate Apprenticeship in Health (Optical Retail) is equivalent to five GCSEs.
  • Engaged media, schools and the public about its commitment to providing diverse opportunities for young people. Over 85 media articles were generated about the scheme from October 2014 to May 2016, reaching more than 6 million people.
  • Participated in the National Careers Guidance Show in London showcasing the scheme to prospective apprentices; attended a number of school careers fairs, and hosted optic workshops in schools to inspire seven to 15-year-old pupils.
  • Invested in a series of videos to profile the benefits of the apprenticeship. The videos were released to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week 2015.

Benefits and achievements

  • Vision Express was one of the first retailers to join The 5% Club, which means that the company has pledged to have 5% of its workforce comprising young people on structured training schemes over the next five years. The organisation is on track to surpass this benchmark.
  • In its first year, Vision Express received 3,000 applications for its apprenticeship scheme, averaging 40 applicants per place.
  • A total of 90 apprentices were recruited; 50 are still on the programme and 34 have now qualified. In the following year, 48 apprentices were recruited, 30 applicants are still on the programme and six have now qualified.
  • Ninety-one per cent of graduates have taken up a full-time, permanent post as an optical assistant.
  • “I’ve enjoyed the apprenticeship because it’s given me opportunities that I would otherwise not have had. It’s a valuable stepping stone into a career and I’ve appreciated all of the support I’ve received along the way.” – Shannon, Vision Express Reading graduate.
  • The scheme was highlighted in a book marking 750 years of Parliament. The publication, “The Story of Parliament: Celebrating 750 years of parliament in Britain” put Vision Express in the national spotlight for supporting apprenticeships.

Judges’ comments
“This is a relatively standard but obviously successful apprenticeship scheme.”

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