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Apprentices counter bank staff shortfall

Barclays Bank, for the first time in a decade, is actively recruiting 16-year-old school-leavers with no retail experience to work in its branches.

It is a sharp reversal of "graduates only" policies in many banks over recent years, though Barclays has hired some 18-year-old school-leavers with retail experience. Now, however, it is seeking to hire 120 young people straight from school into a modern apprenticeship scheme.

This will train them to be cashiers, while also enabling them to obtain an NVQ level 3, A-level-equivalent qualification in customer service.

Four days a week will be spent in the branches and one day studying in a Barclays learning centre or with an external tutor. The NVQ will include communication skills, transactional skills and identifying retail opportunities.

Candidates for the places, which are being offered next month, need grade A*-C in maths and English GCSE. Places are available in the north of England, the North-west, South-east and Greater London.

The modern apprenticeship scheme has been developed with the banking union UNIFI to enhance staff employability.

Katy Weaver, Barclays' human resources manager for UK sales and service, said: "This is a really great opportunity to get some young talent into the organisation - some people who we can train and develop. There will be some real stars who come out of it."

Students on the 18-month-long apprenticeships will enjoy the practical support of a branch mentor. The pay is pound;100 a week, rising to pound;166 after six months. There will also be opportunities to shadow other branch office roles.

"This is a really good example of a scheme where we will take people without experience and give them the qualifications as well, so they are not being forced to make a choice between A-levels or just going into a job," Ms Weaver added.

Jim Lowe, national secretary of the Barclays Bank branch of UNIFI, the biggest financial trade union in Europe, said: "We have a partnership agreement with Barclays Bank and the bank has worked very, very closely with us in introducing this.

"We think it's good news for the staff and good news for the bank because for the first time in many years the bank is now actively recruiting school-leavers.

"It is providing an apprenticeship scheme which could be second to none in the industry but also it will buy in a lot of loyalty."

Young people interested in the scheme can contact the bank hotline on 0845 3000795, reference 25022

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