How Connect with Work is transforming young lives
Barclays CEO Jes Staley last week met four young people who have benefited from the bank’s innovative Connect with Work programme – and heard their difficult and inspiring stories.
“I had a traumatic family life when I was growing up,” Jae Foster told Jes Staley, Group Chief Executive of Barclays, in a boardroom at the bank’s headquarters in Canary Wharf. “As a child, I was often exposed to domestic violence.”
Jae, 27, was one of four young people who have had difficult experiences but are now working thanks to Barclays’ new Connect with Work scheme – an innovative employability programme.
The young people were invited to share their stories with Staley, who then asked questions about how they overcame their circumstances. 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.”
Everything changed when her community mental health team put her in touch with The Prince’s Trust, a charity that supports disadvantaged young people and is one of Barclays’ partners in Connect with Work, together with the social business Catch22, which works to build resilience and aspiration in people facing difficult circumstances.
What makes Connect with Work different is that it matches those individuals with job openings at Barclays’ corporate clients, who may be struggling to find the right candidates through traditional routes.
Follow your dreams
After completing confidence-building courses with the charity, including in cooking, sailing and the adventure activity ‘co-steering’, 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.
She told Staley her life now is unrecognisable. “I’ve changed so much because of what The Prince’s Trust has done for me,” she said. “Talking to people isn’t a challenge any more. The thing they have taught me is to follow my dreams.”
Milos Novak, 24, told Staley that his childhood was an “emotional rollercoaster” after his father ended up in prison when he was just seven years old, and then his brother, “my role model”, was also jailed. After intervening in a fight involving his brother, Milos, too, served a short prison sentence, and came out determined to have a better future.
He was put in touch with The Prince’s Trust by his job centre and now has a job with Marks & Spencer. “The programme has been absolutely amazing,” he said. “I am seen as a key member of the team at work and have already been promoted.
There are brilliant people that come out of our prisons. Having a less smooth transition into employment makes people very resilient and determined to keep going.
Assistant Director of Partnerships at Catch22
“All these great things are happening, all because of The Prince’s Trust. From me, it’s a heartfelt thanks.”
Milos is now working with sixth formers at his former school in Leicester to help stop them getting into trouble and credits the support he was given with helping him to become a role model for others.
Two other young people told their stories. Connie Foster, 17, left school early and applied for more than 100 jobs before finding employment at Gibbs Hybrid Workforce Solutions in Surrey through the programme.
Anastasia Nebor, 22, now works at the aquaponic farming business and Unreasonable Impact participant GrowUp Urban Farms, thanks to Connect with Work. Both were brought into the programme by Catch22.
“What you have done is very impressive,” Staley told the young people. “Giving people a second chance is a big deal. You help someone who has been in jail, you give them their life back.”
Addressing the Barclays Connect with Work champions and those from Catch22 and The Prince’s Trust, Staley asked: “What are the characteristics that allow someone like Jae or Milos to pull themselves out of what must have been a very disruptive environment?”
“It’s an inner bravery and a desire to change,” answered Katie Maughan, Senior Partnerships Manager at The Prince’s Trust. “Asking for help is key. You have to be very trusting to put your hand out and ask for help. We at The Prince’s Trust will help but it needs to come from within.”
Sarah Sinnott, Assistant Director of Partnerships at Catch22, agreed: “The important thing is not to just look at what a person looks like on paper,” she said. “There are brilliant people that come out of our prisons. Having a less smooth transition into employment makes people very resilient and determined to keep going.”