A new lease of life
Four years ago, Jeff Ruffell thought he might not work at a senior level again. He had spent two decades in sales management and another decade in the kitchen and bathroom industry, but a run of bad health and bad luck had left him jobless at the age of just 53.
“I was recovering from a serious car accident when the company I was working for folded,” he says. “The stress of the accident caused me to have a breakdown and I thought my depression would stop me finding work with a new company.”
Then last year he came across the recently launched Barclays Bolder Apprenticeships scheme, which aims to support older people back into the workplace, and – despite initial reservations – decided to apply. “I thought I wouldn’t stand a chance because of my age, but then they offered me an interview.”
Jeff now works as an Essential Banker at Barclays’ Sunderland Contact Centre, helping customers to carry out their everyday banking, and feels his new role has given him “the old Jeff” back. “I am very proud of what I have achieved over the past few months,” he says.
“This apprenticeship has given me a new lease of life and helped me get back on track. My confidence has grown hugely and I very much enjoy my job. I learn something new every day and am surrounded by a supportive group of colleagues who all help each other to make progress.”
The UK faces a chronic skills shortage, with the government estimating that 13.5 million job vacancies will need to be filled over the next decade. Only seven million young people will leave school and college in that time.
This apprenticeship has given me a new lease of life and helped me get back on track. My confidence has grown hugely and I very much enjoy my job.
Mike Thompson, Barclays’ Director of Apprenticeships, says the scheme is part of the bank’s commitment to finding under-used talent among workers of all ages.
“Once out of work, older workers face a much tougher task to find the opportunities to get back into full employment again,” he says. “We believe that age or social circumstances shouldn’t be a barrier or deciding factor in finding a viable route to employment. Reskilling can be achieved at any age.”
Baroness Ros Altmann, the former Minister for Pensions and a leading campaigner on issues affecting the over-50s, has welcomed the scheme. “Having a diverse workforce – including an age-diverse workforce – enables a business to reflect its customer base,” she says. “I am delighted that Barclays has recognised this and is actively seeking to recruit people of all ages.”
Jeff agrees that older people have a great deal to offer. Now 57, he says his experience helps him both to support other, younger staff and to relate to customers who, like him, are coming late to the digital world.
“The experience that older workers bring with them, and their unique skillset means that often we will be more comfortable meeting people and talking to people,” he says. “I’m able to provide counsel to colleagues who are unsure how best to manage a customer or to reflect on a customer call so they have the confidence and skills for the next occasion.”
Jeff now plans to work until he is at least 65 and says he has met a whole new circle of people through the apprenticeship. “I am very grateful for the opportunity Barclays has given me, and am now looking forward to the future: to finishing my apprenticeship, continuing to gain satisfaction from my work, and having the chance to enjoy life and travel with my family,” he says.