· 2 min read · Features

Taking innovative steps in apprenticeships


The apprenticeship landscape is changing; not only are they becoming an increasingly popular route into work for young people, but more industries are now offering them and the quality is improving.

Last year more than 440,000 people started an apprenticeship in England, and Barclays’ own programme hit the milestone of hiring 2,000 young people into apprenticeships.

Alongside more industries waking up to the benefits of apprenticeships, the government has also increased its focus on them. This has led to businesses and government coming together to create one of the most exciting developments we’ve seen in the landscape: Trailblazer apprenticeships.

The Trailblazer scheme aims to redesign apprenticeship standards and ensure higher quality, industry-specific training. Businesses within each sector collaborated to design the schemes, to guarantee tailored skill needs would be delivered from the resulting programme. At Barclays we’ve gone a step further, and have ensured our Trailblazer apprentices get a qualification equivalent to an undergraduate degree at the end of the scheme. 

Our Trailblazer apprenticeship programme opens up opportunities in the business to young people where previously entry-level candidates would need a degree, including corporate banking, wealth & investment management and investment banking. Our apprentices will learn about the local market and sector in which our clients operate; the range of products and services available; and how to build and manage relationships. We also plan to expand our Trailblazer offering in the autumn. 

Young people get the chance to earn while they learn, as all apprentices must receive the appropriate national minimum wage – although at Barclays we provide full living wage from day one. Like many other schemes, we also offer a permanent job upon completion of the qualification. 

Businesses can also benefit from apprenticeships and schemes such as Trailblazers. This is because they can tailor apprenticeships to their needs and so fill any skills gaps they may have. They can also attract a fresh pool of talent, which can offer a new approach and ideas about the business and its customers. 

While the benefits of apprenticeships are undeniable and there is appetite from young people, for some there remains a stigma about them as a career option. Recent research from LifeSkills created with Barclays revealed over a third (36%) of 14- to 25-year-olds felt an apprenticeship was just a backup if they weren’t able to get into higher or further education. Nearly one in four (23%) also felt that it was only a route for those that are not academic.

We all have a role to play in tackling this stigma to ensure that young people are given all the options when they start their career. One way to do this is for more businesses to work with education providers so that young people understand what they are looking for in entry level recruits before they leave education. 

Unfortunately the number of young people not in education, employment or training remains unacceptably high. That’s why Barclays is encouraging all organisations to consider offering an apprenticeship scheme. With National Apprenticeship Week taking place, there has never been a better time to explore this route to recruiting entry level candidates.

Mike Thompson is head of employability and early careers programmes at Barclays