Barclays addresses skills gap through Connect with Work programme5 min read . Updated: 29 Feb 2020, 05:40 PM IST
Barclays believes in playing a positive and active role in the communities where they operate and, given the importance of sustainable and inclusive economic growth, are focused on breaking down barriers to work and opportunity.
In 2015, the global community adopted the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Goal 8 of the agenda aims to “Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all." The UN suggests that “more progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, particularly for young people, reduce informal employment and the gender pay gap and promote safe and secure working environments to create decent work for all." With a focus on these, the goal, therefore, is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.
One of the key areas calling for attention in the job creation value chain is the need to bridge the gap between the skills that current and potential employees have, and those that businesses need. Employers today are keen on building a workforce that is willing and able to adapt to change and continuously evolve. With more than half of the population in India of working age, it is important to provide people entering the workforce with the relevant skills to help them negotiate better pay, working conditions and job security and crucially provide employers with access to the talent they need.
Barclays believes in playing a positive and active role in the communities where they operate and, given the importance of sustainable and inclusive economic growth, are focused on breaking down barriers to work and opportunity. Through the Connect with Work programme, Barclays is making an important commitment to addressing the skills gap, while also giving businesses the opportunity to develop a diverse and skilled workforce that will go on to become active contributors in the country’s economic growth.
Connect with Work engages participants that have the desire and potential to enter the workforce, but do not have the work-ready skills that make them employable. Elaborating on the programme, Ram Gopal, CEO, Barclays Bank PLC, India, says, “We recognize the importance of helping people get into entry-level jobs to start meaningful careers, and supporting businesses to access candidates with the skills needed to help them thrive. By working with impactful partners who have extensive grassroots experience, and encouraging our own employees to give their time and expertise, we’re on track to help 2,50,000 people around the world into work by the end of 2022."
Barclays’ delivery partners collaborate with educational institutions to identify job-seekers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, to take part in a series of work-readiness workshops that are conducted by industry experts and specialist trainers. After the training and in conjunction with the colleges, the Connect with Work graduates are placed into work and mentored for the first 12 months of employment. The programme outreach team then continues to engage with the alumni, tracking their journey and providing mentoring support for a year after the initial placement.
Uma Ganesh, Chairperson, Global Talent Track (GTT) – delivery partner for the Barclays Connect with Work programme – brings in an interesting perspective. She says, “During our journey towards making India employable, we are witnessing a notable trend. Close to 80% of the participants we interact with are the first in their families and often in their communities, villages or slums to have had the opportunity to go to university. This is especially true of young girls who are breaking traditional barriers and are keen to embrace the opportunities that modern India has to offer. However, we find that despite their academic and technical skills, most participants lack the basic skills and corporate insight that is essential for them to find a job. Through the Barclays Connect with Work programme, we have been able to reach out to train them, introduce them to their first job and support them through the early days of their career."
Take the case of Mayuresh Barbade, a graduate from Pune’s NBN Sinhgad School of Engineering. All set to step into the corporate world, Barbade never seemed to find his way past the interview stage. He soon realized that “my introverted nature and inhibitions were going to be an obstacle that I had to overcome." Similarly, for Jinal Jayanti Gadda, from Mumbai’s Rajeev Gandhi Institute of Technology, time management and public speaking were areas of concern that she was keen to address. Following workshops, peer interactions and counselling, Barbade was able to get over his inhibitions and is now placed with a reputable business. He sums up his experience saying, “I am now convinced about the value that the right training can offer. I feel grateful that I got the opportunity to be a part of the Barclays Connect with Work programme. It has made me a lot more confident." Similarly, Gadda now sees herself closer to her dream of having a successful career and “making my family proud."
With several mechanical and labour-intensive jobs today getting automated, workplaces are increasingly focusing on unique skills that set a candidate apart. For the participants, it’s an opportunity that could change the course of their future. Uma R Krishnan, Co-CEO, Barclays Global Service Centre Private Limited, adds, “As part of Barclays’ Citizenship strategy, the issue that we are trying to solve is one of the pressing problems of our generation – the gaping skills gap. The idea behind our Connect with Work programme was to equip participants looking for jobs with work-readiness skills that will make them employable."
One of the primary traits that most employers look for is effective communication and this includes the candidate’s ability to listen. It is equally important to manage students’ expectations. Ramesh R, CEO of International Association for Human Values, a delivery partner for the Connect with Work programme, points out, “When students approach us, there is often a mismatch in the students’ expectations relative to their skills. If they have the required degree, they expect salaries that are not aligned with industry benchmarks and want a workplace that is close to home." As part of the sessions, students are trained to adapt and adopt changes based on the circumstances they find themselves in.
Businesses are on the hunt for candidates who possess excellent communication skills, confidence, a professional attitude and top-notch work ethic. As per a World Economic Forum report, cognitive abilities such as creativity, logical reasoning and problem solving will be required as we move forward. Work-readiness training offers students the edge that differentiates them from their competing candidates.
Highlighting Barclays’ commitment to the Connect with Work programme, Praveen Kumar,co-CEO, Barclays Global Service Centre Private Limited, says, “We will continue to work with key stakeholders to help identify real career opportunities and support people in those real jobs."