Kirstie Mackey, Head of LifeSkills created with Barclays, explains how the programme is helping to tackle the issue of youth unemployment. By bringing together employers and educational institutions, the programme focuses on equipping more young people with the skills they need to secure employment after school.

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Youth unemployment across the UK is falling but despite the promising data and encouraging signs, there remains considerable work to be done – work that many business groups believe could be done by the coming together of employers and educational institutions.

We know from research by business groups such as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), that employers don’t believe school leavers are ready for work, and that more needs to be done to help them prepare for employment.

According to the FSB, eight out of 10 employers1 don’t believe young people leave school ready for work, while a recent study by the CBI2 found that an overemphasis on passing exams leads to large numbers of school leavers entering the workplace without basic literacy, numeracy and communication skills.

Furthermore, the CBI and Pearson ‘Education and Skills Survey’3, found that 78% of employers put school and college leavers’ attitudes to work as the most important factor when recruiting. This suggests that as well as needing support in gaining the right skills, young people also need help in developing the right attitude for work.

Instilling confidence in young people

LifeSkills created with Barclays is on a mission to help tackle this problem. Launched in March last year, the programme collaborates with SMEs and corporates to help young people transition from school to work. So far the take-up is encouraging, and it already operates in almost 50% of all secondary schools in the UK. There are three core elements: people skills, work skills and money skills, and we’ll soon be introducing an enterprise element too.

Changes in the school curriculum, such as work experience no longer being mandatory, have meant that young people often lack confidence and career aspirations, and we know that one in eight young people lives in workless households – if they don’t have the role model of work, there is every chance they don’t have anyone to give them confidence or inspiration to find a career.

Providing work experience

One of the companies we are successfully collaborating with through LifeSkills created with Barclays, is the facilities management giant ISS UK. So far in 2014 alone, the company has reached around 1,300 school pupils by providing work experience placements and by visiting schools and holding careers advice workshops.

As Richard Sykes their Chief Executive Officer explains, the key is to bridge the gap between leaving school and starting work: “The education curriculum doesn’t allow enough bandwidth for pupils to step out of education and into the workplace from time to time. The key challenge is always to get that first opportunity and that first bit of work experience.”

The impact of work like this shouldn’t be underestimated. A survey by the Education and Employers Taskforce4 revealed that more than a quarter (26.1%) of young people who could recall no contact with employers while at school went on to become NEET (not in education, employment or training). Meanwhile, young adults who recalled four or more employer contacts were five times less likely to be NEET than those who had no involvement.

The rise and benefits of apprenticeships

Providing career role models and work experience is just part of tackling youth unemployment, and we know that apprenticeship programmes are equally important.

As a result, both Barclays and ISS plan to increase their apprenticeship programmes in the months to come. For Richard Sykes, offering apprenticeships at ISS is a “win-win situation” - the company currently employs 210 apprentices and is on target to extend that by another 40 by the end of the year. As he explains: “That’s been achieved by our managers understanding the benefits that apprentices bring to the business and by taking away some of the stigma that was associated with apprentice schemes before.”

Barclays’ own recent intake of apprentices is transforming the business, having opened its programme in March 2012. Crucially, it accepts people who have no prior work experience or qualifications, and there’s nothing to suggest that that should be a hindrance. Indeed, we now have 1,200 apprentices and if you measure their performance against those who have come in via the non-apprentice route, they’re performing just as well as their peers.

The bigger picture

The value of apprenticeship schemes, work experience placements and career advice in schools, cannot be underestimated but there is still more to be done. LifeSkills created with Barclays has the specific goal of reaching one million young people by 2015, but we can’t do this alone. By working with companies like ISS, and others such as KPMG, Nuffield Health, Hilton Hotels – to name but a few - we hope to create even more work experience placements for young people up and down the UK.

Find out more about LifeSkills created with Barclays. Of if you have any questions about the other citizenship projects that Barclays is supporting, please don’t hesitate to speak with your Private Banker.

1August 2012 - http://www.fsb.org.uk/News.aspx?loc=pressroom&rec=7793

2July 2014, The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10943278/CBI-too-many-school-leavers-underequipped-for-life.html

32013 CBI and Pearson/CBI Education and Skills survey [PDF, 1.2MB]

4February 2012 Education and Employers Taskforce http://www.educationandemployers.org/research/its-who-you-meet-why-employer-contacts-at-school-make-a-difference-to-the-employment-prospects-of-young-adults/

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