Our reporter road tests the Barclays LifeSkills programme

One of the enduring questions young people like myself struggle with is what to do with our lives. Coming from a London council estate where few people held down professional jobs, I found it difficult to marry my passions and skills to a viable career path – I simply didn’t see many options around me.

In spite of a disadvantaged background, I made it into journalism where I’ve been in the industry for a little over two years and now report for The Independent. Prior to testing Barclays LifeSkills, I didn’t know much about it. The peak of my career development insight growing up was being told I had to find work experience in Year 10 or I’d be in trouble, which landed me in a Tesco pharmacy receiving prescriptions and arranging perfume displays.

Thankfully, Barclays LifeSkills was simple enough to get going for a first-time user. After setting up an account in a breakout space in the office, I immediately took to its easy layout divided into sections for young people, educators, families, changing worklife and businesses.

At the top of the young people’s page popped up the Wheel of Strengths programme. For a chance to highlight my skills, I started here. As the name suggests, this interactive tool takes your strengths, character traits and interests and suggests likely career paths for you. Based on my communication strengths and passion for science, the Wheel suggested I might make a decent therapist, school teacher, health practitioner, or journalist – so it was good to know that I am on the right path.

One key function of LifeSkills is its responsiveness to different stages of life goals. There are a range of blogs, videos and interactive activities to choose from across wide-ranging topics – from knowing your strengths to what to expect at gruelling assessment day interviews. I was able to choose that I’m currently in employment and looking to build my network – to which LifeSkills automatically presented focused content, including how to get the best out of LinkedIn, tactics to approaching contacts and a video on the advantages of networking skills.

Keen to see what LifeSkills had to offer for the painful task of CV-building and updating, I located the CV builder tool using the platform’s search bar. A general tip I’ve received on CVs is to update them at least twice a year – advice I’ve overlooked admittedly for all the effort of collating my experiences and milestones onto a concise two-page document. However, the LifeSkills CV builder does that hard work for you. It uses your social media profiles to build your best moments into a CV, in addition to highlighting where you may not be presenting as well online to employers.

After using the Barclays LifeSkills programme for a week, it was clear how much I had missed out on when I was planning my career pathway in secondary school. It was everything I needed as a struggling teenager. Even now, sitting on the latter end of the young adult age range, I quickly saw how much the programme has to offer and after using it, I can’t help but feel that LifeSkills can play a role throughout my career lifetime – from tweaking my CV, to improving my social media presence and networking, which is of utmost importance in journalism.

Thomas Kingsley, a reporter for The Independent, tries out the Barclays LifeSkills platform

(Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Programme founder Kirstie Mackey OBE – recently honoured by the Queen for her services to young people and financial services – initially started the platform in 2013 for 11-16-year-olds and said she didn’t anticipate the number of different groups who would be eager to use it – from charities to youth clubs and church groups. Today, the programme reaches primary school students as well as working-age adults, with a specialised platform for educators and families supporting young people.

Mackey said: “When we started the programme, youth unemployment was at its peak. We saw businesses weren’t recruiting young people because they were not work ready. We did some digging and realised that careers education had been cut in schools and that it was purely focused on academic qualifications, so young people didn’t know what businesses were looking for.”

After nine years and a reach that penetrates 90 per cent of UK schools, Mackey said her main measure of success is its positive impact on young people. “The LifeSkills programme gives young people that confidence they need, that motivation that they can see a future career plan. It helps them see there’s a different world out there.”

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Our campaign in a nutshell

What are we doing? We have launched Skill Up Step Up, a £1m initiative in partnership with Barclays LifeSkills to upskill unemployed and disadvantaged young Londoners so they can be “work ready” and step up into sustainable jobs or apprenticeships.

Why are we doing this? Youth unemployment in London has soared by 55 per cent to 105,000 since the start of the pandemic, meaning that 21 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds are jobless at a time of record job vacancies of 1.17 million countrywide. This mismatch, caused largely by an employability skills and experience gap, is leading to wasted lives and billions of pounds of lost productivity for our economy.

How will it work? The £1m from Barclays will provide grant funding over two years for up to five outstanding, handpicked charities that provide disadvantaged jobless young Londoners with employability skills and wrap-around care to get them into the labour market and transform their lives. The charity partners we have announced so far are:

1. Springboard: they will support young people into jobs in the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, bars, leisure and tourism) via a three- to six-week programme that includes one-to-one mentoring, soft skills and employability development (confidence, work attitude, CV building, interview practice and time management), practical industry and hard skills training, including food safety and customer service, as well as access to work experience placements.

2. City Gateway: they will get young people work ready with a 12-week employability programme, including digital skills, a work placement, CV and interview skills and a dedicated one-to-one coach, extending to up to 20 weeks if they need English and/or maths qualifications, enabling them to gain entry level positions including apprenticeships in a wide range of sectors, including finance, digital media, marketing, retail, property and IT.

More partner charities will be announced in due course.

How can the young and jobless skill up? If you are aged 16-24 and want to upskill towards a job in hospitality, contact Springboard here.

If you want to upskill towards a job in any other sector, contact City Gateway here.

For tools, tips and learning resources visit

How can employers step up? We want companies – large, medium and small – to step up to the plate with a pledge to employ one or more trainees in a job or apprenticeship. They could work in your IT, customer service, human resources, marketing or sales departments, or any department with entry level positions. You will be provided with a shortlist of suitable candidates to interview. To get the ball rolling, contact the London Community Foundation, who are managing the process on:

How can readers help? The more money we raise, the more young people we can skill up. To donate, click here

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