Taking on an apprentice adds lasting value to a business and can be a crucial part of the talent pipeline

Mike ThompsonFor many businesses, especially SMEs, apprenticeships have not previously been part of recruitment strategy.

However, as the discussion intensifies around how to attract and retain talent with the skills businesses needs to succeed, focus has turned to the alternative ways to hire young people. This will likely only increase as the debate around tackling unemployment continues to be one of the biggest issues in the run up to the General Election.

There is no doubt that recent government initiatives have made an impact and contributed to the increase in the number of apprenticeship starts: now at 440,000 in the 2013/2014 academic year. This goes hand in hand with increased consideration of apprenticeships by young people.

According to research from the Barclays LifeSkills Youth Barometer nearly half (49%) of 14-25-year-olds surveyed in 2014 would now consider completing one, an increase of nine percent on 2013.

Benefits of apprenticeships

badge-talentThis is a welcome shift, as it means more and more young people and businesses are benefiting from apprenticeships. At Barclays, we’ve been able to reap these rewards over the last few years; the most obvious of which has been the diversification of our entry level recruits. Our approach is distinct, in that we do not require previous experience or academic attainment from our apprentices.

Instead, our programme has been designed to provide candidates with the training and support they need. This means we are able to focus our recruitment on young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and hire talent based on assessment of their mind-set and attitude towards work. As a result, our apprenticeships are from a far broader range of backgrounds and are more representative of the diverse communities we serve. They also bring a new approach that, in turn, supports us in better meeting the needs of our customers.

Having hired over 2,000 apprentices, we’ve found there to be three main advantages. Their learning and training can be targeted to the needs of our business, addressing skills shortages we’ve faced. Apprentices, in general, are young people who for many reasons didn’t feel that higher education was for them and often are concerned they will not be able to succeed professionally. Getting an apprenticeship therefore offers a solid grounding for a career and as a result, our apprentices are highly motivated and determined to succeed. This is supported by research from Skills Training UK, which found almost all (92%) of employers who employ apprentices believe they lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.

Lasting value

Finally, taking on an apprentice adds lasting value to a business. The same Skills UK research3 found that over two fifths (41%) of businesses said their apprentices had made a valuable contribution during their training, while CEBR4 research found a productivity boost of £214 per week. This productivity gain can help offset the cost of offering an apprenticeship programme, but there is also government support and free training available.

Of course, when you make the decision to hire an apprentice, an important part of the process is ensuring you hire the right candidate. There are plenty of free services that can help, such as the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) which will advertise your apprenticeship vacancy for you.

All businesses in the UK can benefit, not just in terms of productivity, but also from an injection of enthusiasm, innovation and a new perspective on an existing business. We encourage other businesses to think about setting up their own apprenticeship schemes, no matter how big or small they may be.


Mike will be speaking at the Symposium Apprentices and School Leavers 2015 conference in Canary Wharf, London on December 3. His session will be examining Barclays’ ‘Bolder Apprenticeships’ programme that offers apprenticeships to older workers.





Mike has been working in Barclays for over 25 years in a variety of Frontline and Support leadership roles across the business.

His past 6 years have been in HR where he has built up extensive experience of implementing management and leadership development programmes, employee engagement programmes and managing the development of Barclays Learning and Development Curriculum

His achievements include the roll out of the highly successful Leadership Excellence Programme across UK, Africa and Europe and the implementation of the Barclays Apprenticeship Programme.

Mike currently manages a number of award winning Early Careers programmes including the Barclays Apprenticeship programme and Barclays Degree Programme. The Barclays Apprenticeship programme won the overall Personnel Today award for 2013.

He is passionate about developing young talent and tackling diversity and equality issues as well as providing meaningful solutions that address youth unemployment.