Barclays has announced it will provide 75 apprenticeships for young people in the North East this year - with details on an additional scheme for those returning to work or changing careers to be announced in the second half of 2015.
Building on the success of its existing apprenticeship programme - through which around 2,000 people have been appointed during the past two years throughout the country - the financial services provider has now launched a nationwide drive to create 800 new opportunities.
In the North East, the 75 successful candidates - mainly young people who are not currently in education, employment and training (NEET) - will work across the business, with 65 being based at the company’s Sunderland Contact Centre, and the rest throughout regional branches.
From day one, they will receive full pay equivalent to that of a new joiner, and Christine Allenson, site manager at Sunderland, said she confident of benefits not only to the company, but to the apprentices themselves.
“The most motivating aspect of our apprenticeship programme is seeing young people, especially those who perhaps didn’t achieve academically, grow in confidence and aspiration,” she said.
“The apprentices we have on site at Sunderland have achieved fantastic results and are a real asset to the organisation; I’m incredibly excited to welcome the next intake.
“Our goal is to help our apprentices grow with us, not just in the skills they learn, but in the confidence they gain, as well as to help them build a bright future.”
The news comes just weeks after Barclays announced that the Sunderland site - named North East Contact Centre of the Year for three years in a row - would house its first ever UK centre for fraud detection.
On being accepted on to the new apprenticeships, candidates will receive received training in so-called ‘soft skills’ focussed on customer experience, as well in the technology used by the business.
Throughout the year-long courses, intended to lead to full-time jobs, they will receive support through a number of channels, from regular meetings to one-to-one mentoring.
Barclays will be working with a number of local training providers, identified through working with Sunderland City Council.
“In the candidates, we’re looking to see values and a drive to do the right thing for customers, rather than academic qualifications,” Ms Allenson added.
“It makes such a difference for people to have somebody to believe in them. That is one of the greatest things we can give to them.”
Barclays is also exploring apprenticeship opportunities for those returning to work or looking for a new career.
Ms Allenson said plans were still being finalised but it was hoped that the initiative would be launched in Sunderland, with an intake of 12 in the summer.
“Initially, we had looked at this as something for the over-50s,” Ms Allenson said.
“But we didn’t want to discriminate so now it will be simply aimed at those returning to work.”
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson, said: “Barclays’ commitment to apprenticeships gives local young people terrific opportunities for training and a potential career at this thriving company.
“We work closely with Sunderland’s contact centre sector to ensure as many local people as possible can take advantage of jobs in the industry.
“Barclays, with its announcements this year of more than 300 new jobs at Sunderland, is already a major employer, so the news of 75 opportunities for apprenticeships is good news for the successful recruits, the company and the city.”
On top of its own apprenticeship scheme, Barclays runs a LifeSkills employability programme, which has helped more than 700 young people find apprenticeships and traineeships with local SMEs.