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No better time to take on an apprentice

No better time to take on an apprentice

Carolyn Blunt on why apprenticeships are now even more vital to the insurance profession than before

The UK insurance profession is the largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, with more than 94,000 direct employees. In 2019, its tax contributions reached approximately £75.5bn, the largest contribution of any sector within the country.

The UK insurance sector is also a world leader as an exporter of insurance to the rest of the world, and an estimated 90% of UK households hold at least one insurance product.

However, during the coronavirus crisis, unemployment has risen across all sectors and is forecast to be as high as 15% by the end of the year.

This puts even more pressure on the staff remaining to be able to deliver a wide range of skills and grow their knowledge.

Apprenticeships are often thought of as a way to recruit young talent into organisations, but they are equally suitable for talent already employed in your business and there is no age limit.

So, should more organisations think about apprenticeships during this uncertain time?

In 2018-2019, there were 742,400 people participating in an apprenticeship in England, with 393,400 apprenticeship starts and 185,100 apprenticeship achievements. While insurance sector apprenticeships make up a small proportion of the overall apprenticeships, a large majority of these are delivered by Davies Learning Solutions (formerly FWD Training & Consultancy).

We are working with some of the largest employers in the insurance sector and are inviting opinions, inputs and feedback to shape the future of talent for the industry from both employers and apprentices alike.

Are you using available funding to its full advantage?

It certainly makes sense on paper – if you are paying into the levy then why not use it? The money will remain there for two years and if not used will be removed and distributed to organisations that don’t pay into the levy. Smaller employers can access apprenticeships for up to 10 staff, with only a 5% contribution required from the smaller firms, or even fully funded in some cases.

In response to Covid-19, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also made more funding available towards hiring new apprentices under the age of 25 and has permitted learning to continue while on furlough. For non-levy firms, the opportunity to access 95% of funding for apprenticeships has also been increased from three places per organisation to 10. Larger firms can also gift up to 25% of their pot to other employers.

However, figures this year revealed that employers are failing to use hundreds of millions of pounds that was intended for training up apprentices as part of the apprenticeship levy scheme. Some £400m of funding was relinquished and at least 55 of the largest employers in England each released more than £1m back to the government.

Due to these concerning statistics and the increasing number of employers not taking advantage of the apprenticeship opportunities, staff may be missing out on developing skills and knowledge at a time when organisations need it most, and when staff may have the capacity to learn due to time and energy saved from commuting.

The impact of coronavirus

The global pandemic has unfortunately caused many businesses to cease recruitment activity. Many have taken advantage of the furlough scheme, and as this nears an end it can create difficult decisions to identify people for redundancy. This has also had an impact on entry-level recruitment and therefore on apprenticeships being offered. Glassdoor research found that there has been a 64% decline in the number of new entry-level opportunities in recent months.

The skills of the workforce are more important to the survival of organisations than ever before. Creating learning opportunities to increase job performance is a smart move and also keeps employees engaged and focused while working from home. Many of our apprentices have moved even faster through their learning pathways due to having extra time and energy in their day now they are no longer commuting. Others have found juggling children challenging and have chosen to opt for a break in learning, safe in the knowledge that they can pick up where they have left off.

The government continues to offer financial support to effectively underpin the skills and development of employees.

For example, the Chancellor also announced additional funding from August 2020 to January 2021. Any organisation that recruits a young person onto an apprenticeship programme aged 16 to 24 will receive £2,000, while those that hire new apprentices aged 25 and over will be paid £1,500.

These payments will be in addition to the existing £1,000 incentive the government already provides for new 16- to 18-year-old apprentices, and those aged under 25 with an education, health and care plan where that applies.

It means that employers could receive up to £3,000 for hiring 16- to 18-year-old apprentices during the six-month incentive scheme, up to their 19th birthday.

A redundancy support service has also been put in place to assist apprentices who may need to move between employers during their apprenticeship. Employers that take on a previously redundant apprentice will still be able to claim the additional funding providing the role is classed as ‘new’.

Many of the organisations that have made enquiries to us about starting new apprentices have felt that it is ‘the right thing to do’, wherever they can support young people in this difficult and unprecedented time.
One employer said: “I have been meaning to look into an apprentice for a while. Young people have missed out on so much during 2020 and made sacrifices for the older and more vulnerable, so it would be good to create this opportunity. Plus, I could really use the extra help of another pair of hands in my business.”

Benefits to apprentices

Apprentices that have successfully completed their learning journeys with us are very positive about the whole experience and the opportunity to earn and gain real work experience while studying.

Pelumi Ojo of Aon successfully completed Senior Insurance Professional Level 6. When asked about her apprenticeship, she commented: “It is definitely worth doing if you want a career in insurance – it is almost silly not to! To me, it is more valuable than having a degree; it takes you into the specifics of the profession, gives you credibility and allows you to build your confidence. You also earn more while you study for the qualifications. These are all great benefits.”

This is consistent with research by the National Apprenticeship Service, which found that 74% of employers said apprentices had improved their product or service offering. Elsewhere, 67% stated that employing apprentices had improved retention of staff, while 73% of employers said it had boosted staff morale.

David Chesham of Marsh echoes this. Marsh launched its graduate scheme, combining with Senior Insurance Professional Level 6 apprenticeships, in December 2019 and has been delighted by the support from Davies Learning Solutions.

Mr Chesham commented: “We have been particularly pleased with the quality of the specialist coaches and tutors. The positive feedback from our graduates demonstrated the benefit of integrating the apprenticeship with our existing graduate scheme and has overcome our concerns about its appropriateness for a graduate audience. We are extending this programme to all our graduates in 2020/2021.”

Looking to the future

Can we do more with apprenticeships and levy funding to benefit the industry? Absolutely. There are three key programmes that Davies Learning Solutions offers the sector. These are: Insurance Practitioner Level 3, Insurance Professional Level 4 and Senior Insurance Professional Level 6. This provides a great pathway for internal talent.

Through the Davies Academy we also help employers to source and assess talent, particularly for school leavers to join at Level 3 and graduates to join at Level 6. Making the insurance industry an appealing and rewarding choice for young professionals is at the heart of what we do.

Having more conversations in the industry about apprenticeships is also important and we are encouraging employers and apprentices to engage with us to discuss their experiences through forums and social media.

Marcus Bowsher, managing director of Davies Learning Solutions, said: “Using levy money that can’t be accessed for anything else is a great way to develop talent in a way that doesn’t negatively impact other budgets. As a top 50-rated training provider we work to ensure our employers are fully supported, as well as our apprentices, to make the journey as easy and as practical for all.”

Since the impact of Covid-19, all of Davies Learning Solutions’ apprenticeships are being delivered remotely through online tutorial groups, online one-to-one coaching sessions and submission of digital portfolio evidence.

Apprenticeships for the insurance industry have never been more practical, or more vital.

If you would like to find out more, please contact:

Carolyn Blunt FCIPD

Director

Davies Learning Solutions

E: Carolyn.Blunt@davies-group.com
W: www.davies-group.com/learning

Image credit | iStock

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