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The first UK company has announced plans to extend its apprenticeship programme to over-24s.

Barclays is to introduce Bolder Apprentices – a scheme open to over 24s – in a bid to help make up a shortfall of more than six million workers for UK job vacancies over the next 10 years.

Mike Thompson, Director of Apprenticeships at Barclays, said: “The Government has suggested that based on current employer plans we will need to fill 13.5 million job vacancies in the next ten years, but only seven million young people will leave school and college in that time.

“We have to address this, we have to find alternatives and we have to provide opportunities to unlock the talent that is being underutilised across all age brackets.”

He added: “Once out of work, older workers face a much tougher task to find the opportunities to get back into full employment again. We believe that age or social circumstances shouldn’t be a barrier or deciding factor in finding a viable route to employment. Reskilling can be achieved at any age.

“From today, we want to start a conversation with other businesses to increase collaboration, regardless of sector or industry, to address how we can maximise the valuable contribution older workers make.”

Minister for Pensions, Baroness Altmann welcomed the Barclays Bolder apprenticeship scheme.

She said: “Having a diverse workforce – including an age diverse workforce – enables a business to reflect its customer base; to better understand and better serve its whole range of clients. I am delighted that Barclays has recognised this and is actively seeking to recruit people of all ages.

“As we can look forward to living longer, we need to re-think what ‘old’ looks like – the traditional stereotypes of people over 50 no longer apply. It is never too late to learn new skills, take on new challenges and live life to the full.”