November 6, 2013 in Events (live blogging), CIPD Annual Conference 2013

#CIPD13 – Apprenticeships and strategies to empower young talent

Rob Zajko (Hilton Worldwide), Mike Thompson (Barclays)

One-sentence summary:  Organisations desperately need young talent as much as young people desperately need jobs and it is possible to bridge that divide by collaborating for talent in the right way and it is a difference that is worth making.


Rob Zajko  РHilton Worldwide

Rob introduced his session by quoting from some of their research on the paradox that today’s industries need young talent and young people desperately need jobs, but there is some kind of mismatch. 82% of people don’t know what they want to do when they leave school and young people are often missing key skills that they need to secure employment. One of the key factors that can inform career choice is work experience and apprenticeships can play a massive role in helping to bridge the gaps. It quickly became clear to Hilton that the diversity of the needs necessitates a diverse approach.

Hilton started by getting the senior leaders on board (which was aided by the compelling business case of apprenticeships), then got the team members on board who would be ambassadors for apprenticeships (and are closer in age to the apprentices), then established the support network. Hilton were clear that a focus on young people and apprenticeships is something that a responsible company should be doing.

Hilton created a signature event (Careers@Hilton Live) as a focal point of the year and ran this across their hotels, with each hotel doing different things to help share career advice and equip young people with key employability skills.

Rob talked about the amount of competition for young talent, but stressed the importance of finding companies and partners who they can collaborate with to help share the opportunities. It is an interesting shift of focus from competing for talent to collaborating for talent. Rob also talked about how a candidate may not be the right fit for an apprenticeship, but might be a future employee, supplier, partner, or hotel guest!

I was interested to hear about the Rock Assembly at Wembley Arena, a free end of term pop concert preceded by a careers fair which looked very engaging and well attended.


Mike Thompson (Barclays)

Barclays have been working to develop a talent pipeline via apprenticeships . Barclays has previously seen a really high turnover of younger employees and had realised that they were seriously lacking younger talent in the bank. It was also clear that some of the new approaches in the digital space would be much easier to drive for so-called digital natives.

They launched an apprenticeship programme with an aim of recruiting 1000 young people, with a focus on people who were finding it really difficult to find employment. ‘The Barclays Apprenticeship Programme’ was launched last year and it ramped up really quickly. Mike brought the programme to life by telling us the story of one apprentice who was really struggling to find employment despite trying really hard, despite having loads of challenges to overcome. When Barclays interviewed them, they were blown away by the potential, even thought it was accompanied by no experience, and now they are a brilliant employee who is hugely engaged, loyal, and flourishing. Although the numbers for apprenticeships are impressive, it was great to have this really brought alive through a real study about the difference that this can make to the lives of young people.

Mike said that the programme has not been without its challenges, and raised an interesting point that many younger people who have limited academic qualifications haven’t been hindered by lack of academic ability but by other factors. In response to this, Barclays have created other programmes that will help people to gain a degree later.

Barclays ambition has expanded from the initial 1,000 people and is now ‘To give one million young people access to the skills they need to transition successfully from education into work by 2015’ , “Let’s go to work”. The programme underway is working to equip children at school with people, work, and money skills in order to help them gain employment.

Mike talked about the programme as joining the dots between young people, businesses, and teachers and Barclays have 3,252 schools signed up and have so far reached over 17,250 people.


It is clear that youth unemployment is a huge, societal issue and business has a key role to play in developing future talent. Barclays and Hilton are doing some great work. My own experiences of apprenticeships has been with The Juice Academy so I’ve been fortunate to witness some of this impact for myself.

By browsing this website, you agree to our privacy policy.
I Agree