Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
Apprenticeships in finance 05/10/2009
With the latest Apprentice series on and with Sir Alan television campaign to get more people into apprenticeships, financial services companies might be wondering what they can do to be in on the apprenticeship action.
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- What is the apprenticeship programme?
- Benefits of the programme
- Three core strands
- Options on the financial services arena
- Successful network
- Working with employers
- Cost pressure, but shortage of skill
What is the apprenticeship programme?
When most of us think of apprenticeships, we traditionally think of blue collar occupations, but apprenticeships are suitable for all sectors including financial services. At the National Skills Academy for Financial Services (NSAFS) which is rapidly establishing itself as the UK’s leading financial services education, skills and training provider, we are delivering an apprenticeship programme which is specifically designed for financial services businesses.
Apprentices are for people of all ages and traditionally take 12-24 months to complete, depending on the age and experience of the employee. For some employers working in areas of higher staff turnover, this can provide a real opportunity to reduce attrition rates. Many financial services companies see the apprenticeship programme as a way of improving skills among existing staff in a period of recruitment freeze.
Benefits of the programme
Most people in our industry recognise the importance of obtaining the professional bodies’ qualifications and many must be qualified to meet regulatory requirements. Traditionally firms invest huge sums of money in training their staff and setting up training and competence schemes to ensure employees are fit for purpose and effective in their role.
The apprenticeship scheme mirrors what a lot of employers are currently doing and allows the non-graduate workforce a real opportunity to take part in a cost effective structured training programme. The Skills Academy wants to spread this news to employers so financial services can also take full advantage of what the scheme has to offer and access the funding that is available to support training. We now have more than 700 apprentices signed up through the Academy’s centres.
Three core strands
Professional qualification, competence qualification and soft skills are covered in the programme.
If your business is providing financial advice, you will want your staff to be qualified to at least either the CII certificate level in financial planning or the IFS certificate level for financial advisers. For specialist areas of advice such as mortgage and long term care insurance all the relevant CII and IFS certificates are included within the apprenticeship frameworks.
However, there is also a practical on the job element to ensure the employee is competent to perform their job role. This competency element can be linked to your training and competence scheme and will lead to an award in providing financial advice.
The final component of the apprenticeship is to ensure that the softer skills of numeracy and communication are sufficient and well developed within the context of the job role and your business.
Options on the financial services arena
There are a number of ways that the apprenticeship scheme can be used in the financial arena. You may have staff that is currently qualified as mortgage advisers who want to expand their skills to become a financial adviser or a specialist in long term care insurance.
There are also opportunities for those working in General Insurance, Investment Administration, Banking and Pensions administration to undertake their appropriate professional qualifications of the CII, SII and IFS through a similar process.
An example of one of our apprenticeship schemes in action comes with Chaucer Insurance, the Whitstable-based motor insurance division of Chaucer Holdings PLC. They have teamed up with the National Skills Academy for Financial Services and one of the Skills Academy training centres, Orpington College, to offer staff an apprenticeship in Providing Financial Services.
At the NSAFS we have created a national network of training providers to deliver our apprenticeship programme and other professional development courses. Our specialism in this field of work will provide innovative delivery models to meet particular needs and our training centres have access to public funding income streams.
Our network is evolving and this year we expect to deliver more than 5,000 courses to about 3,500 learners. More than 1,000 learners have either completed or are undertaking our apprenticeships.
Since launch in May 2007, our network has grown from four to over 20 providers that are now located in seven English regions. By the end of 2009 we expect to have 30 providers in place across seven regions.
Working with employers
As an employer led organization, the National Skills Academy for Financial Services is driven by employers to ensure the training we deliver provides value for money and meets the needs of their workforce.
Many employers have been put off in the past by the complexities of public funding. A key role of the National Skills Academy is to manage the relationship with the government funding agencies and take responsibility for administering their requirements. This allows the employer to concentrate on the training programme, working with the training centre to make sure each component fits their business requirement.
Alternatively you may feel that you want to continue with your internal training and development department delivering professional qualifications. Our models of delivery are flexible and lend themselves to working in partnership with you to deliver the programme jointly each specialising in their particular parts.
Cost pressure, but shortage of skill
Our experience confirms that the apprenticeship scheme provides a really great opportunity for employers in the industry to receive cost effective training.
Employers need skilled and trained people and research continually shows that those organisations that invest in skills improve their productivity and business performance. While most organisations agree with this in principle, when costs are under pressure it's often the training and development budget that is cut back, with training kept to the essential minimum. Apprenticeships can be the solution to this cost pressure and help you to continually develop your people either at no cost to yourself or at a subsidised level.
This initiative is also picking up on the government’s push to tackle what they see as a shortage of skills in the country. In a speech in January 2008, Gordon Brown spoke of his desire for Britain to have ‘the world’s most highly skilled workforce’ and apprenticeships are one of the ways this will be delivered.