According to a recent report*, an estimated 40% of employers are experiencing difficulties in filling job vacancies, as candidates lack digital technology and employability skills.
This comes at a time when around two thirds of future new roles are expected to be created by entrepreneurial-led smaller businesses.
Barclays is helping to bridge the gap with a series of innovative programmes designed to help young people develop new skills, while also targeting high-potential businesses by providing valuable support in the early stages of their growth.
As part of the programme aimed at entrepreneurs, Oxford has been chosen as one of just seven locations to host Barclays Scale Up UK, with a series of workshops running throughout the year on topics such as Strategy and Value Curves, Business Models and Cascading, and Leadership and Talent Management.
Trevor French, head of mid corporate, Barclays Thames Valley, said: “We recognise there is a need to support the entrepreneurial small businesses which will be creating the jobs of the future and we’re delighted that Oxford is helping to lead the way.
“Our aim is to help those entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and, at the same time, we are trying to provide potential employees with the skills, training and job opportunities to gain employment.”
The programme comes at a time when French, who is based with his team in Botley, Oxford, says firms across the wider Thames Valley will face a “significant threat” once the Crossrail project is completed.
“We know that recruitment and retention of employees with the right skills in sectors such as research and development, technology and the sciences is already an issue,” he continued. “I believe that will increase as the arrival of Crossrail and the increased proximity to London mean more people look to travel to the capital.
“We have to try and compete with that by creating more career opportunities and recruiting strategies, and also look at better retention of staff as well.”
As examples of Barclays’ commitment, he cites the Barclays LifeSkills programme, which has already helped more than 5.5 million young people to boost their employability with advice on issues such as communication, problem-solving and understanding how the business world is changing.
The programme has recently been expanded to encompass businesses as well, encouraging them to build relationships with local schools and colleges, offer work experience places, and consider taking on apprentices and trainees.
French is a keen advocate of the apprenticeship programme: “If an employer is thinking of taking on an apprentice, there is a lot of information to help them through the process. At Barclays, we have employed more than 3,000 apprentices of all different ages and backgrounds and we have been seeing the benefits in terms of increased diversity and progression opportunities for our colleagues – we certainly see apprenticeships as a great way to bring people on board.”
At a local level, Barclays is also a sponsor of the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards 2018.
In a further commitment to helping people find work, Barclays’ Connect to Work programme, run in conjunction with local charities and training partners, has already engaged with more than 100 businesses in the UK and specifically found jobs for 850 people, something French says the team is “very proud of”.
With the countdown to Brexit now closer than ever, French says the survey also revealed that around 70% of businesses believe a hard Brexit will present a “significant threat” to their organisation and he believes the continued uncertainty is causing concern.
“We have a great deal of industry knowledge and experience across the Barclays business.
“Many of our team members have real hands-on experience and in-depth knowledge of their industries and they are able to share those skills and resources, including a wide range of data and information, with clients, helping to deliver the advantages they need to continue to succeed.
“We also have excellent relationships with organisations such as UK Export Finance (UKEF) and, if our clients have issues they need to talk about, we can put them in touch with the right people,” concluded French.
* Barclays Environmental Social Governance Report 2017
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