IT is a demographic which struggles to find employers who will give them the chance to embark on a new career. But now a leading bank is to launch an apprenticeship scheme for the over 50s which offers an opportunity to woo the City.
The scheme by Barclays will provide the chance of a new start for middle-aged workers looking for a fulfilling career change, one that could bring a lucrative salary.
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The apprentices will learn banking skills – such as calculating credit risks and the criteria for approving a loan – alongside young people not in employment, education or training who currently provide the intake for the bank’s trainee scheme.
Mike Thompson, head of apprenticeships at Barclays, dismissed suggestions the initiative was a PR gimmick and said more mature workers could offer a great deal to the bank.
It was not part of the firm’s corporate social responsibility programme, he said, but was a “commercial decision”. The fact that older workers are more likely to have commitments and responsibilities, Mr Thompson explained, means they are more likely to have established accounting skills.
Asked how someone in their fifties could successfully compete in a new career against those aged 16 to 24, he said: “Older people have more life experience and can show more empathy. They will have had a mortgage, they will know how to budget and how to support customers.”
The bank is considering whether the older recruits should earn more than the starter pay given to young apprentices, which is around £7.85 per hour nationwide and £9.15 in London.
The older trainees will still be expected to work their way up from the bottom rung of the career ladder, although as Mr Thompson pointed out: “There is no ceiling on how high anybody can go.”
The bank will be hoping that the older apprentices will emulate the success of last year’s intake of young trainees.
Of the 2,000 who began the standard 12 month-long course at the start of 2014, 500 have graduated, including some who have already progressed to the rank of business banking manager, a role which sees them advise business clients on growth and investment plans.
The initiative provides some welcome news for older workers at what has been a testing time.
An estimated one million people aged 50 to 64 have been pushed out of their previous jobs through redundancy, ill health or early retirement, according to Prime, a charity set up by the Prince of Wales to support business creation for the over-50s.
The Barclays scheme is due to be advertised this summer, with a pilot project launched in the autumn.