Back on June 5, Barclays announced it would move 500 technologist roles from its offices in Wilmington to a new, state-of-the-art campus in Whippany, New Jersey, where they would join nearly 1,900 colleagues. At the same time, people inside the organization told us the company had warned another small group of people that they would be laid off in late 2019.
In a state that’s seen its share of banking job losses, that elicited an immediate reaction from state officials and our congressional delegation that they would do all they could to protect those jobs. And it sounded like they’d have private-sector support because a number of financial institutions had previously told the Delaware Business Times they were looking to hire people into similar roles.
Delaware also had a unique opportunity to demonstrate to prospects that the state has many selling points that would overcome the comfort and security of a known situation (and the tenure already earned at Barclays).
So how many are staying?
The word on the street (admittedly, a different way to say “according to sources who wished to remain anonymous”) was that the workers offered jobs in New Jersey had until mid-July to make their decisions, which seemed right considering that the relocations would need to be made prior to the start of the new school year. But the PR guys at Barclays steadfastly declined to comment beyond the occasional “we continue to help our colleagues and organization work through the transition.” The banks offered vague statements of interest but nothing specific, except for a recent announcement by WSFS that it was hiring a senior Barclays technologist as its new Chief Digital Officer.
In other words, crickets. Despite my best efforts, it was like pulling teeth. And then on Sept 4, I connected with Delaware Secretary of Labor Cerron Cade, who outlined how his team sprung into action once Barclays made its announcement.
“When you first hear something like that, your stomach drops,” Cade said. “Then we got more information and found we weren’t talking about CSRs (customer service representatives). These were not the kind of people who typically hit the job market.”
Cade said his team began engaging with Barclays’ HR team immediately after Barclays made their June announcement. He has a Rapid Response Team that can be deployed to job sites following announcements of mass layoffs to assist impacted employees with their job search and help connect local employers with available talent.
After Barclays provided Cade’s team with information on the 270 workers who wanted to stay, the Rapid Response team got its first look at them during two sessions on Aug. 13.
Attendees from the Department of Labor included staff from our divisions of Unemployment and Employment and Training.
“We included our local Business Service Representatives, who are assigned to various regions and towns across the state, so that Barclays’ dislocated workers would be aware of employment opportunities from Sussex to Wilmington,” Cade said. “We also included representation from the regional US DOL office in Philadelphia. US DOL was invited during these Rapid Response sessions to discuss questions pertaining to affordable health insurance alternatives to COBRA. These sessions not only allowed us to share information with dislocated workers, but also gave us the opportunity to gather information on these Barclays’ employees that could be shared with Delaware employers. (job titles, experience, skills, credentials, educational attainment, etc.).”
From its interactions with the employees, the team did some career mapping and found that a good chunk of the employees — a large number of whom also live in Delaware — were interested in going back to school. State officials also brought the State Department of Human Resources to the table in hopes they might be able to attract some of the technologists.
Two weeks later, on Aug. 27, the Delaware DOL hosted an early evening Banking and IT job fair at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. Organizers had worked with groups like Tech Impact, chambers of commerce, and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership to attract both IT-related employers as well as interested job seekers. Twenty-five organizations were represented, including employers from across the region, educational institutions, and state agencies. There was a Barclays-only event from 4-5 p.m. and then the last hour included a broader audience of job seekers — about 300 in all.
It’s still a bit early to assess how well all these efforts will pay off but Cade says he’ll have a better idea within a few weeks. We do know that WSFS hired its new Chief Digital Officer from Barclays, and that other banks and fintechs have said they’re now interviewing candidates.
Cade says he’s received feedback from employers who described the job fair as one of the most productive ones they’ve attended all year.
This effort reinforces some of Delaware’s strengths, including the ability to quickly mobilize the critical parties and address needs in the job market for talented workers at a time when many other states are struggling to do that.
All in all, this was a big win for state government and for employers who have been looking for top-flight technologists.
— Peter Osborne, DBT Editor