LifeSkills extends Business in the Community partnership
LifeSkills created with Barclays has signed new partnerships with Business in the Community (BITC) in Scotland and Northern Ireland, helping the employability programme to reach those young people who need it most. We talk to one school in South Wales – where a partnership with BITC Cymru has been running since 2015 – about the difference the initiative has made.
Cyfarthfa High School is a mixed secondary school of 1,200 pupils in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales that used to be based partly in Cyfarthfa Castle, built by a wealthy Victorian family at the height of the iron industry.
“We have a range of students from different backgrounds and so anything we can do to get them ready to go out there and get employment is important,” says Rhian George, Careers Coordinator and Head of Business Studies and Vocational Education.
Two years ago, the school signed up to LifeSkills created with Barclays – the bank’s flagship employability programme aimed at inspiring, educating and empowering young people to develop the skills needed in the workplace. Through a charity partnership with BITC Cymru, Barclays ensures that the programme helps to give all young people the same opportunities to improve their employability.
The first session two years ago saw BITC Cymru staff and 21 Barclays volunteers teaching pupils in year seven – the first year of secondary school – how to open a bank account. That was followed by sessions with other year groups on CV writing, planning an event, savings, budgeting and ‘needs and wants’ – a way to help young people work out whether they should spend money on something or not. “By the end of this year, we will have delivered the programme to the whole school,” says Rhian.
She is full of praise for LifeSkills. “The resources are fab: accessible and easy to understand,” she says. “The pupils are really engaged and we always have volunteers from Barclays alongside the BITC Cymru staff who run the sessions and our teaching staff who also get involved.
“I think one of the strengths of the programme is that it’s not run by teachers – we deliver so much to them that it’s a bit like, ‘Not you again!’. It’s good for them to see a fresh face from outside the school, who might be able to offer a different perspective.”
Rhian describes the programme as “very successful”. “It’s really important. It gets them ready for what they will have to do after school, in terms of budgeting and applying for jobs. We’ve always had strong links with local businesses and this builds on that work.”
In new partnerships announced in April, LifeSkills will now also work with BITC Scotland and BITC Northern Ireland to deliver the resource to thousands more young people.
More than 30,000 students from schools in Scotland and 21,000 from Northern Ireland are expected to benefit over the next two years, including those in the most deprived communities. Kirstie Mackey, Director of LifeSkills at Barclays, said the new partnership allowed the programme to reach “those young people who need it most”.
She added: “In an ever-evolving careers landscape which is increasingly competitive, it is vitally important that all young people are given the same opportunities to gain the core transferable skills that employers are looking for.
“Government, businesses, educators and parents need to work together to improve careers advice and invest in the next generation, raising their confidence and aspirations and building the UK’s talent pipeline.”
Barclays set up the LifeSkills programme in 2013 to help address high levels of youth unemployment and the gap between school-leavers’ skills and the needs of 21st century businesses. More than 4.2 million young people have already participated in the programme.