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A new apprenticeship scheme to help young people take their first steps on the career ladder is being launched in Southend.

NatWest Group has joined forces with social mobility charity Leadership Through Sport and Business (LTSB) to offer 24 places at their Customer Contact Centre in the town.

The opportunities will be open to young people aged 16 – 24. The apprentices will join a two-week preparation and support boot camp, followed by work experience within the Contact Centre.

Successful candidates will be invited to join the NatWest Group apprenticeship scheme on a salary of £19,305 per annum.

The first boot camp, which starts in April, will offer a combination of pastoral support, employment skills, and personal and professional opportunities to ensure young people are confident, ready and equipped for the workplace. The new roles will begin in May.

The Southend-on-Sea region has been selected as an area where youth unemployment is an issue and the impact of COVID-19 has hit young people disproportionately.

Simon Separghan, Head of Customer Contact & Experience at NatWest Group said: “Youth unemployment is set to rocket due to COVID-19 – hitting the most vulnerable hardest. We want to unlock the ambitions of young people in potentially dire situations through our partnership with LTSB. Right across the UK, these opportunities will allow us to help build great careers in the local communities and meet the changing needs of our customers.

The scheme has been split into three parts: the second two-week bootcamp will begin in June followed by Contact Centre roles starting in July and the third bootcamp will begin in September with roles starting in October.

Welcoming the new programme, Paul Evans, CEO of LTSB said: ‘In the most difficult of circumstances, at a time when young people feel their futures have been “stolen”, partnerships like this offer hope to so many young people. NatWest Group once again has demonstrated their commitment to social mobility and purpose-based leadership. Together we are making a dent in the youth unemployment crisis and ensuring that bright, talented, amazing young people find meaningful careers that match their aspirations, talents and ambitions. We are a proud partner of NatWest Group and are excited about the opportunities that will benefit so many young people across the UK.’

This new opportunity for young people in NatWest’s Contact Centres builds upon an already successful partnership with LTSB, which supports talented individuals from economically and socially less advantaged backgrounds. It is hoped the customer service roles will support young people facing barriers in their early career, particularly those who have been eligible for free school meals, giving them the tools and support to succeed.

NatWest Group was the first UK bank to launch a bespoke Digital and Innovation Apprenticeship programme in 2019 designed to support individuals from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds. In partnership with LTSB the bank provided access to 250 digital, technology and finance apprenticeships over 3 years. 2020 alone saw 60 young people placed into well paid apprenticeship opportunities that included software developers, digital skills professionals, data analysts and financial customer service advisor roles. In 2021 NatWest Group added a further 150 apprenticeship opportunities in their Contact Centres, the Southend opportunities being some of the first to be made available.

Saima Hamid, 2020 LTSB Digital & Technology degree apprentice at NatWest Group, said:”The LTSB Bootcamp is career changing. It equips you with essential employability skills that would be required in any role as well as essential soft skills. This opportunity allows you to meet professionals from several different backgrounds and roles, giving you a detailed insight of what it’s like working in a business environment.’

Sachon Lawrence-Edwards, 2020 LTSB Customer Service apprentice at NatWest Group, said:” LTSB is a great organisation, they helped every single one of us who were on the 2020 NatWest programme. They delivered sessions which were fun, engaging, and genuinely helpful. And I feel like LTSB are actually genuinely invested in your future and want you to succeed and want the best for you. So I took part in a bootcamp last summer, it was great. I’ve made some new friends who I talk to now every day almost. I feel like without that kind of experience I wouldn’t be who I am today or in the role that I currently am in, so LTSB thank you.”

Sam Bowerman, HR Director of Customer Businesses at NatWest Group, said: “Our apprentices bring new ideas, a new perspective, digital skills and they challenge the way we do things to ensure our services reflect our customer needs. We are proud to partner with LTSB who support us with our social mobility apprenticeship programmes. This helps us to open up more apprenticeship opportunities to young people from less advantaged backgrounds across the UK during this challenging time.”