Corporate Responsibility award entry

How Connect with Work is transforming young lives

“Although there are many employability programmes that offer general skills, there are very few that offer real skills training with actual jobs at the end of it,” says Nicki Thomson, Head of Business Services at Barclays Corporate. She is proud that the bank’s Connect with Work scheme, designed to bridge the employment gap, has secured jobs for nearly 900 people across more than 100 businesses in the UK.

Connect with Work is aimed at individuals with the aptitude and attitude to enter the workplace, but who face barriers such as a lack of qualifications, experience or confidence. The programme connects individuals aged 16 and over with businesses that are recruiting but struggling to find skilled and motivated individuals for vacancies. Working with Catch22 and The Prince’s Trust, Barclays trains people in the job-specific skills that the businesses are looking for (a demand-led approach) and supports them into jobs or apprenticeships.

The bank also supports businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as its clients and suppliers, to create entry-level jobs for the participating individuals, addressing both sides of the employment gap.


How it works

Connect with Work combines the best of Barclays with the expertise in workforce development of our charity partners. Barclays’ Relationship Directors are crucial in facilitating an introduction with Barclays’ clients who then work with a Connect with Work delivery partner to support them to develop an employment programme that addresses their unique business challenges and needs. Meanwhile, individuals that go through the programme – potential candidates – receive support from a dedicated advisor and tailored training, before and after they start work – all funded by the programme.

By supporting both work skills and businesses, the programme is facilitating access to employment and seeks to inspire more resilient individuals and prosperous communities across the UK.

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Societal benefits

Since its launch in 2016, Connect with Work has supported nearly 900 people into work (with an 88% 3-month retention rate) and engaged with more than 100 businesses across the UK.


In 2017, Barclays CEO, Jes Staley, met four young people who have benefited from the programme and heard their difficult and inspiring stories – including Jae Foster’s.


“I had a traumatic family life when I was growing up,” Jae, 27, told Jes. “As a child, I was often exposed to domestic violence.” Jae described how the problems she experienced at home meant that she missed out on school, and how she later ended up addicted to drugs and alcohol.


After getting clean with the help of her mother, she became scared to leave the house. “I didn’t leave the house for three years,” she explained. “I’ve suffered with mental health problems all my life and I became suicidal.”


But everything changed when her community mental health team put her in touch with The Prince’s Trust. After completing confidence-building courses with the charity, including in cooking and sailing, Jae was selected for the employability programme with Winchester Hospital, and as a result now has a job as a cleaner at a university and is studying part-time to gain her English and Maths GCSEs.


Connect with Work is helping young people – like Jae – to get their lives back on track through tailored training and support. Furthermore, the programme challenges employer perceptions, providing companies with an opportunity to diversify their workforce and further their social objectives.


Business benefits

The skills gap is costing UK businesses more than £2 billion a year in higher salaries, recruitment costs and temporary staffing, according to research from The Open University.


Connect with Work supports Barclays’ clients and suppliers to reduce these costs by providing a tailored approach to help them meet their recruitment needs. Employers have commented:


  • “Working with Barclays Connect with Work partner Catch22 to employ Matt has been an extremely positive experience. The communication we’ve had with Catch22 throughout the entire process has been excellent. They demonstrated an understanding of our business needs and what we were looking for in a candidate. It was also clear they had a genuine desire to help their client find suitable employment. I felt this was a highly effective approach as within three days we had recruited a new member of our team.”
  • “We found the process to hire an apprentice very difficult and weren’t able to source the right local candidate. Catch22 were instrumental in the recruitment of our apprentice Alex, and will support him throughout his placement.”


The programme encourages and enables businesses to develop a diverse workforce which ultimately improves productivity and performance, and supports businesses to recruit individuals with the right attitude and aptitude to help grow their business: “Our apprentices have come with a fantastic attitude and, while you can teach people skills, you can’t teach a good attitude. Their motivation and fast pace of learning will contribute to our continued success.”

Connect with Work’s demand-led approach ensures that the programme has capacity for deep-impact – both on the lives of the individuals placed into work, and the businesses that they join. It also explains why the programme has such a strong job placement rate (nearly 900 roles to date).


Businesses’ hiring needs are changing, they’re demanding new skills and new forms of talent – and Connect with Work can help to ensure they have access to talented individuals fully prepared to embrace those roles. And, crucially, that those from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t get left behind.


The programme is building hugely impactful partnerships that have the potential to change the workforce dynamic in cities across the UK – for example, as Shilpi Akbar, Assistant Director for Employment, Birmingham City Council comments: “Birmingham City Council and Barclays are collaborating on the Connect with Work programme to empower young people in Birmingham by equipping them with the skills to be successful in the digital sector. The programme will help Birmingham solidify its reputation as a world class centre for digital and innovation.”


The programme is working across multiple sectors, including those with a number of entry level roles such as hospitality and leisure, while also supporting to fill positions in those with a more specific skill-set for example in the digital and fintech space.

The success of Connect with Work can largely be attributed to the following key aspects of the programme.

  • A demand-led approach: Barclays work with employers, or hiring managers, to establish their individual requirements, and subsequently provide young people with job-specific skills training. This addresses both sides of the employment gap.
  • Strong relationships with key stakeholders: For Barclays, this includes the company’s Relationship Directors who play a crucial role in engaging businesses – Barclays’ clients and suppliers – in the programme. This is best done through senior leader advocacy, a regular dialogue, and by clearly outlining the benefits of the programme through case studies that demonstrate a positive impact on both the employer and the young people engaged in the programme.

The intersection of social impact and commercial opportunity: Through the Connect with Work programme, Barclays works hand-in-hand with their clients and suppliers to meet their urgent hiring needs and to satisfy their desire to create a more diverse workforce. When Barclays’ clients prosper, Barclays does too – and in fact, identifying synergies across industries to drive shared growth is key to achieving economic growth and stability.