Manuel Thompson-Oloko examines how the apprenticeship landscape is looking during the Covid-19 pandemic
Professional development and supporting access to careers within insurance and personal finance is the core of what we do at the CII. As such, we recognise that apprenticeships are not only a viable option for many employers in the sector but that they are quickly becoming recognised as the preferred route for new entrants into the professions, as well as for reskilling existing staff.
Apprenticeship standards in England encompass an established set of knowledge, skills and behaviours that have been identified by employers within the profession as being essential. This group of employers, known as trailblazers, work with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and consult with the CII to ensure a robust set of standards is created, supported by appropriate assessments at each apprenticeship level.
All of these standards align to the CII’s qualification levels, including Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Insurance and Financial Planning.
Apprenticeships have not been without their challenges, as many employers continue to underutilise their levy while others still struggle to navigate fitting a programme into the structure of their organisation. Added to that, 2020 was a difficult year for most, with the apprenticeship landscape being no exception. Many lost their jobs during the pandemic – and this includes apprentices. In response, the government launched several initiatives to support redundant apprentices with moving into other sectors and to encourage employers to take on new apprentices.
More than 500 firms have so far registered for the CII’s Aspire apprenticeship programme
In November, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government would “improve the way the apprenticeship system works for businesses”, with an extension to the Plan for Jobs programme and incentives to encourage employers to hire a new apprentice. Through this incentive, employers are paid £2,000 per apprentice for each young apprentice they hire, and £1,500 for every apprentice aged 25 or above. However, this programme is scheduled to end in March this year, and currently there is no plan for a contingency following this deadline.
As for what we are doing ourselves – the CII has been working with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to continuously improve apprenticeship standards – ensuring all apprenticeship training providers have clear guidance on set standards. For firms seeking a simple solution to their apprenticeship needs – the CII Aspire apprenticeship programme launched in 2017.
The programme has seen more than 500 firms register since its launch and is currently poised for an increase in interested firms, following a slight dip in registrations during the pandemic. This year, the CII Aspire programme has decided to make the decision to work only with firms that have committed to non-discriminatory hiring policies. This is an important step for diversity and inclusion in the profession, the benefits of which will be felt by our people, our clients and even in our bottom lines.
Lockdowns have resulted in a shift to online learning and many of the partner organisations we work with have been quick to adapt their delivery model to focus more on virtual training. New learners are also still being signed up by our preferred providers through the Aspire programme, and we will do all we can to support partner organisations to ensure apprentices continue to receive world-leading training in insurance and personal finance.
For the profession to continue to operate, remain competitive and best serve the needs of the future, reaching out to new and diverse talent has to be made the number-one priority.
Manuel Thompson-Oloko is early careers manager at the CII