One of the Enterprise Zone’s key goals is to attract 17,000 jobs by 2037. A large part of doing this is ensuring that the future workforce – today’s young people – have the skills, ambition and knowledge to take up those jobs.

One Enterprise Zone employer is making strides towards helping achieve this goal: Bank of Ireland UK on Temple Quay. They have been working with 12-17 year old students from local school Merchants’ Academy since 2008 on a scheme to help students get to know the world of work.

The bank

How many people work at the Bank of Ireland UK office in Temple Quay? We employ about 900 staff in Bristol. This is approximately 35% more than we did in Bristol a year ago, and 40% of the Bank’s total UK workforce (2,200).

How long has the Bank had a base at Temple Quay? Bank of Ireland can trace its roots in Bristol back through to its acquisition in 1997 of the Bristol & West Building Society, founded in Bristol in 1850. Since then, the Bank has established a growing presence in the city, which has been focused on Temple Quay since 2000.

What is the main function of the Bank’s base at Temple Quay? It houses the headquarters for our UK mortgage business, as well as a number of other key functions, including risk, finance, legal, customer services, marketing and treasury operations.

The scheme

How does the Bank work with the school? Bank of Ireland UK provides vital ‘world of work’ experiences to Merchants’ Academy. Merchants’ Academy is located in a disadvantaged part of Bristol, so raising aspirations and employability skills is crucial to them. The Bank offers learning visits to the premises, as well as work experience and mock interviews.

What happens on a visit? The visits are undertaken in tutor groups and students are split into small groups. They get a tour that covers various areas of the premises, including the post room, security (a popular section due to students being shown the Bank’s CCTV and security monitoring system), the Mortgage Sales Contact Centre and a presentation on different financial products in a 150 seater in-house auditorium. The tour concludes in the Bank’s Riverside Restaurant, where students are offered refreshments and prizes are awarded for best attitude and behaviour and winning quiz answers.


Merchants' Academy students using computers at Bank of Ireland

Merchants’ Academy students taking part in a visit

How many students have taken part to date? Each year, around 160 children visit the Bank’s premises and five children join us for work experience.

What is the aim of the scheme? These visits assist students in understanding that the majority of businesses have a range of different occupations that support their smooth running, some of which are not obvious. Bank of Ireland UK staff are encouraged to talk about their work life journey and impress upon students the importance of working hard at school and developing lifelong skills that will help them to be employable.

What has the feedback from participants been like? Merchants’ Academy has said that the visits provide an exceptional opportunity for their students to engage with the world of work. For some students, these interactions can be life changing; they can increase aspiration levels amongst students. Without exception, all of the students enjoy their visit and the children have displayed a high level of engagement. The school is hugely appreciative of the support that the Bank has provided over the years.

Are there any highlights to date? Yes, several:

  • The number of Bank staff involved has increased, which is encouraging and also helps to enhance the visits with fresh ideas, year after year. Bank staff have found the partnership with Merchants’ Academy a rewarding experience, and engaging with the students fun. It is a chance to make a positive difference.
  • Some students who have been on the visits in Year 8 then come back in Year 10 for their work experience.
  • Since 2008, it has become clear through discussions students have had with staff that aspirations have indeed lifted, and some of the children have very clear ideas on the career path they wish to follow.

What plans are there for the scheme in the future? Bank of Ireland will continue to support its local community and we are committed to a long term and successful partnership with Merchants’ Academy and its students. The Bank is passionate about ensuring all children have access to education and job opportunities, irrespective of their background.

What is distinctive and exciting about financial services that you hope will inspire participants? Financial services reaches all parts of the economy and many aspects of people’s lives. It is likely to be a more interesting and more important sector than many students will be aware of, so we hope that the scheme is a real eye-opener for them.

Does the Bank have any other skills schemes in Bristol? Yes, several. One example supported by staff in Bristol is TeachFirst, a charity committed to combatting educational disadvantage across the UK by training bright, capable individuals to become teachers in disadvantaged schools. A number of senior managers are currently coaching TeachFirst teachers, who are working within challenging schools in low income communities. The coaching sessions enable the teachers to attain their professional goals whilst growing their leadership skills and enabling them to handle the challenges they will face in their role.