“I’m proof that age is not a barrier for apprenticeships”

30 May 2019

Dedicated solely for the over-50s, Barclays’ Bolder scheme is leading the way in championing a multigenerational workforce. We hear from former apprentice and current Barclays Community Banker Lucille Galloway, an early graduate from the scheme, about how Bolder gave her “another shot at life”– and why a multigenerational workplace is a “win-win for everybody”. 

“I never in a million years thought that I would be working in a bank,” says Lucille Galloway, who was one of the first graduates of Barclays Bolder Apprenticeship programme when it launched four years ago.

Lucille worked as a housekeeper, but after her employer moved away she found herself without work and visiting her local job centre. It was there that she noticed a familiar blue eagle.

“I found out that Barclays was recruiting for an over-50s apprenticeships,” says Lucille. “As soon as I heard the word ‘apprentice’, I assumed it was for youngsters – but I called the advisor back later that day to find out.”

Barclays Apprenticeship graduate Lucille Galloway

Lucille Galloway at Barclays’ Ealing branch

The first of its kind in the UK, the Barclays Bolder Apprenticeship is aimed at creating jobs for older people through retraining, regardless of their age or social circumstance. Since its launch, the scheme has recruited more than 80 apprentices, growing the bank’s number of older apprentices from 4% to 20%.

“I was 51 when I applied, and it went against everything I’ve ever experienced in the world of work. I thought: ‘Let me get this right. Barclays bank is trying to convince us that at over 50 they’re going to give us a job, in a bank, with no experience?’” 

Recruiting, reskilling and retaining older workers

By the end of her third week of training – a mixture of classroom-based exercises and hands-on experience in a bank – Lucille was offered an apprenticeship at Barclays’ Ealing Broadway branch, where she’s been based for the last three years.

“I’m proof that age is not a barrier for apprenticeships,” explains Lucille. “For me, joining the Bolder scheme was a lifechanging moment. It’s almost like being given another shot at life.

“I have children and grandchildren. Most things that you want in life get put on the back burner by the time you reach your 50s, and you resign yourself to the fact that some things are never going to happen. I felt that way until my Barclays apprenticeship.”

When Lucille shares how she’s climbing the career ladder at Barclays, she is often met with surprise. “Most people find it hard to believe. Even now, when I tell people about it, it’s hard to fathom. A lot of people have never heard of an over-50s apprenticeship – or jobs for the over 50s.”

Lucille has also met with senior colleagues within the bank to share her unique story – and explain how a multigenerational workplace is a strong one.

“In the first six months of my Barclays apprenticeship, I was invited to Canary Wharf to give a talk at a breakfast with very senior business women,” says Lucille

Lucille Galloway, Barclays Community Banker

Lucille Galloway, Barclays Community Banker

“I remember I started reading off notes, but stopped and told them I had to do it my own way. That was emotional. I was really surprised by how interested people are to hear my story.

Why a multigenerational team is a “win-win for everybody”

Lucille, who is often asked what it’s like to work with younger people at her age, says she wholeheartedly backs this approach. “I absolutely love it. We all get something out of it, it’s a win-win for us all. I am by no means an IT whizz, so whenever I have an issue I can call over one of the youngsters. They’re very supportive and everyone’s very respectful – sometimes there’re moments where it’s almost like being the auntie or the mum in the branch.”

As well as creating a diverse workforce within Barclays, the Bolder Apprenticeship programme was launched to reflect the bank’s customer base which spans five generations. In Lucille’s experience, that extra life experience can make a huge difference when trying to meet the needs of older customers.

“In my first few months at the bank, I was approached by a lady around my age,” Lucille recalls. “She was really frustrated and thought something had gone wrong with a direct debit payment. When I checked her payment, everything seemed fine – and then she broke down into tears.

“The younger member of staff thought the bank had done something wrong, but from an older person’s perspective I knew that life had just gotten in the way for this customer – and this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. She came back at a later time and brought me chocolates as a thanks for helping her. That’s the most rewarding thing, knowing you’ve made a difference.”

“This is so much more than a job”

The Bolder Apprenticeship is just one of many initiatives that the bank offers to encourage individuals back into employment. From its flagship Encore! programme for individuals who have taken a career break to its AFTER programme which supports veterans after they leave the armed forces, there are a wealth of opportunities available to help people back into work.

“I don’t think Barclays will ever know how positively this apprenticeship impacts people’s lives,” says Lucille. “When you’re over 50, this is so much more than a job. I’d be fine if I did this every day until retirement or until I couldn’t do it anymore. I still pinch myself and think: ‘My goodness, Lucille’.”

Asked whether she thinks it’s ever too late to learn new skills, Lucille shakes her head: “No, never. I’m a living testimony to that.”