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Insights: “We’re helping people find long-term, sustainable employment”

26 June 2020

Barclays has committed to supporting a quarter of a million people into work by 2022 as part of its Connect with Work programme, which matches people facing barriers to employment with businesses looking for talent. Karen Johnson, National Head of Retail, Wholesale and Healthcare at the bank, describes how the programme is adapting to support jobseekers affected by the pandemic – and why honesty is the best policy when it comes to applying for jobs.

Barclays made a commitment to support 250,000 people to get into work through the Connect with Work programme by 2022. As we come through this crisis, it’s more important than ever for businesses and charities to work together to break down barriers and facilitate access to work opportunities.

As part of the Connect with Work programme we’ve been offering virtual employability support in response to an anticipated increase in jobseekers – and we’re really proud that hundreds of our colleagues have volunteered virtually to help share their skills and support people with the next steps into employment.

The power of connection

Every seven seconds someone is employed on LinkedIn. Over 300,000 companies use LinkedIn to find, source and hire talent, and there are more than 140 million job applications on LinkedIn every month.

We collaborated with the global employment platform to organise an online training event to support Connect with Work jobseekers during this difficult time, and teach them how to better structure their LinkedIn profile. Though LinkedIn and Barclays are very different organisations, we both have a similar vision of wanting to help and upskill people who face barriers to work.

We were absolutely inundated with questions from almost 100 participants. The quality of their queries demonstrates just how willing and eager people are to learn and how much they want to engage with the platform as an opportunity to further their career. The team at Catch22, one of our Connect with Work partners, commented on how the session helped widen LinkedIn’s usership, rendering it “a space for all”.

Quite a few participants were keen to know what to do about gaps in their CV and the advice from the LinkedIn team was to be open about it to employers if comfortable to do so. Applicants might have been out of work or caring for a relative – and that is a skill in itself. Talking about what has been learned during these gaps is key.


Though LinkedIn and Barclays are very different organisations, we both have a similar vision of wanting to help and upskill people who face barriers to work

Karen Johnson

National Head of Retail, Wholesale and Healthcare

Karen Johnson headshot

We live in a new virtual world, so we’ve had to adapt our Connect with Work events accordingly, but it was through the Q&A session that people began to share anecdotes and stories about job hunting, generating a sense of active engagement that made it feel as if we were attending a real-life session.

To help participants build on the skills acquired at the event, over 100 Barclays colleagues have since volunteered their time to review and feedback on participants’ newly curated LinkedIn profiles. A representative at Springboard, another of our Connect with Work partners, described the event – and this follow-up assistance specifically – as “a massive boost to job seeking, career development and creating support networks”.

Adapting to ‘the new normal’

The pandemic has impacted the job markets in different industries in vastly different ways. Some have been particularly hard hit, meaning employment opportunities in those areas may take longer to get going. Businesses will be forced to adapt to whatever the ‘new normal’ is going to be. 

Conversely, industries such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, e-commerce and online platforms have seen a sharp increase in demand for their services, so they will be moving forward much quicker. There is no doubt that technology will play a new and crucial role in shaping the job market and recruitment moving forward, with remote working and online interviewing and hiring likely to increase, while originally born out of necessity.

Our colleagues will continue to share their insights and skills as volunteers via employability workshops, and at the same time we’ll be leveraging Barclays’ network to provide introductions to clients and potential employers – a key role that I personally am looking forward to playing in helping get people back into employment following the pandemic.

Apply for that job. Make that phone call.

There are a lot of people who, for one reason or another, haven’t been able to do training or gain qualifications. We can’t pigeonhole them – they’re just people who need a little bit of extra support to get them on the career path. We’ve seen some fantastic people, who have had to overcome some significant barriers, come through our Connect with Work programme. We’ve helped them to find long-term, sustainable employment, and that’s what we want to continue to do.

If people are struggling to find employment, I urge them to be open and use all the resources that are on offer. There are some fantastic resources available through our Connect with Work partners The Prince’s Trust, Catch22 and Springboard. We know that they’ve had to adapt their programmes in line with government guidelines, but they are all still providing different forms of support and training during this period, so take advantage of it.

If you find yourself holding back, it’s important to ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ Apply for that job. Make that phone call. The worst thing that can happen is somebody will say no.