Mind the gap report – Liverpool John Moores University case study

Partnership between Barclays UK Strategic Centre of Excellence and Liverpool John Moores University

Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has a rapidly growing partnership with Barclays UK’s Strategic Centre of Excellence based in nearby Cheshire. This led to two new programmes: the Barclays Graduate Training Programme and Pre-Placement Programme for work placement students at Barclays UK. LJMU also collaborates with the company on school outreach activities and is looking to strengthen the relationship through apprenticeship routes and research collaborations.

Origins and rationale

High employability rates in the digital sector means Barclays UK had problems recruiting the right calibre of Computing and Maths graduates for their Technologist Graduate Programme. Its strategic Centre of Excellence asked LJMU for advice and support on boosting quality applications to the scheme. The two organisations already collaborated through industry advisory boards and work placements, whilst Barclays staff provided career talks to students.

An action plan was developed which provided the impetus for a deeper and more multi-dimensional collaboration between the two organisations.

How does it operate in practice? 

The action plan is based on Barclays staff systematically engaging with LMJU World of Work Careers Centre (WWCC) in its regular careers advice and employability services to students and collaborating on new initiatives to support graduates’ work-readiness. In January 2015 ‘World of Work Uncovered’ was launched where 40 students and 10 academic staff spent a day with Barclays sharing ideas about employability, industry informed curricula and leading edge industry applications.

LJMU also worked with Barclays to re-design and help to deliver the company’s in-house graduate training programmes. LJMU has also developed a new three-month pre-placement programme for students entering the new Barclays UK nine-month Placement Programme. The programme will be delivered jointly between LJMU and Barclays UK in Liverpool and will include modules on workplace culture and management.

What works well and why?

The collaboration is based around a shared commitment to a sustainable relationship that balances the immediate training and skills needs of an employer with strong career development and educational practice.

For LJMU, graduate employability is support through direct engagement with a local employer, resulting in students being recruited to prestigious graduate training schemes. Students also become more work ready and received expert, industry guidance on producing professional applications through career advice from Barclays staff.

LJMU academics gain first hand experience of cutting edge industry practice whilst Barclays staff directly influence the curriculum to maintain its relevance to current working practice. This ensures Barclays (and the digital sector as a whole) has a large pool of candidates with the right skills and experience.

What were/are the key challenges and how were they addressed? 

Bringing busy people together at the right time can be challenge and can result in a temporary loss of momentum. It is important to have key lead people on both sides who can act as action-oriented brokers to weave the strands together. The professional approach and collaborative ethos adopted by both partners generated shared trust stimulating further collaboration beyond LJMU to meeting Barclays’ wider training needs.

Future plans and developments

The partnership is evolving. The partners have discussed how to raise the profile of the Barclays Centre of Excellence by creating a jointly branded Innovation Teaching Lab within the LJMU Department of Computer Science. This space would simulate closely the creative work environment found at the Barclays Centre providing additional work-based experiences for students. The partnership is looking at several new strands of work including collaboration on apprenticeship programmes and the development by LJMU of an online distance Masters level professional development programme for Barclays technical staff.

Read the full report here.

Further reading