How Barclays LifeSkills helps young people build skills for life and work

By Barclays

Barclay’s LifeSkills programme supports employability as a strategy in schools, providing hundreds of free resources for teachers and pupils. 

To be employed is to be at risk, to be employable is to be secure,” said author Peter Hawkins, setting out ‘career tactics for the 21st century’ in The Art of Building Windmills, in 1999.

Never has his message been so relevant. Trends in the world, the way we live, and in the workplace shape the types of skills employers need – from automation to globalisation and increased longevity.

To move forward in a fast-changing jobs landscape, young people require sustainable, transferable skills such as problem-solving and resilience, in addition to their technical or academic qualifications. And to set out on their career journey, they need to be work ready.

“Quite often, we hear from businesses that young people are not ready for work when they leave school,” says Kirstie Mackey, director of the LifeSkills programme at Barclays, which provides employability resources for 11-24 year olds.

“[When we first developed LifeSkills] businesses were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to grow because they didn’t have a pipeline of work-ready young talent.”

Death of the Saturday job

This employability skills gap, Mackey believes, has its roots in “the
death of the Saturday job”, the lack of work experience (no longer mandatory in secondary school for the under-16s, despite calls for it to be reinstated) and – until recently, with the launch of a new careers strategy – cuts to careers provision in schools.

Part-time jobs impart basic skills and discipline (“communicating; not wearing headphones; turning up on time, every day”), while high-quality work experience (or other employer encounters) can transform young people’s aspirations.

“If pupils understand how learning applies to real-world situations that  helps with educational attainment too,” adds Mackey. “We need to give them experience and tasks they can show employers as things they’ve actually undertaken.”

To address these issues, Barclays asked “what core transferable skills will young people need and how can we embed those into our programme and ensure young people are aware of them?”, drawing on the skills identified by the World Economic Forum, for consistency of message.

If pupils understand how learning applies to real-world situations that  helps with educational attainment too

“Teachers can choose what is most relevant for their pupils, download lesson plans and workshops, or request a Barclays volunteer to run workshops for them,” she says. “That’s all curriculum linked and free of charge. We also offer work-experience matching for 14-19 year olds.

“Careers doesn’t need to be a separate curriculum subject,”
she stresses. “For example, you can weave problem-solving into maths and communication into English. The best way for children to understand is to highlight and talk about the skills within the classroom.”


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