Manuel Thompson-Oloko examines the growing importance of apprenticeships within the insurance profession
Apprenticeships in the insurance profession have come a long way since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and new standards. More than a thousand apprentices are registered on technical insurance standards year on year from level three to level six, in addition to hundreds more on numerous other apprenticeship standards including HR, digital and management.
Apprenticeships 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 are created, supported by appropriate assessments at each apprenticeship level. All of these standards align to the CII’s qualification levels, including the Certificate, the Diploma and the Advanced Diploma in Insurance.
We recognise the immense benefits apprenticeships bring to the profession. The ability to expand and upskill your workforce with knowledge and behaviours directly relevant to their roles – and adapt their training according to the needs of your business – keeps employees motivated and committed for the long term, by helping them develop their skills over several years.
A survey by the government’s National Apprenticeships Service found that 86% of employers felt apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation. Eight out of 10 employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity, and 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.
Lesley Bamber, UK apprenticeships manager at Willis Group, says: “Investing in apprenticeships has been one of the most important initiatives we have undertaken in the last few years. We know the insurance industry needs to improve the diversity of its talent pool, and this starts by attracting people from different backgrounds with different skills at the start of their careers. We have dedicated our apprenticeship scheme, as well as our wider recruitment strategy, to achieving this goal.
“Our apprenticeship scheme is the first building block on the way to achieving a diverse talent pool that creates new opportunities for underrepresented talent, increases the number of women in senior positions within the organisation, manages retention levels and recognises high performers through promotion.”
As for what the CII itself is doing, the Aspire apprenticeship programme was launched in 2017 and is well placed to support employers who are not already running apprenticeships. The programme has seen more than 500 firms register since its launch and is currently poised for an increase in the number of interested firms, following a slight dip in registrations during the pandemic. This year, the CII Aspire programme will continue its efforts in working only with firms that are committed to non-discriminatory hiring policies, to ensure a more inclusive profession. This is a crucial step for equality, diversity and inclusion in the profession, the benefits of which will be felt by our people, our clients and even our bottom lines.
Our apprenticeship scheme is the first building block on the way to achieving a diverse talent pool that creates new opportunities for underrepresented talent
Insurance apprentices have faced numerous challenges – most notably, poor retention rates due to a number of factors. From the CII’s perspective and that of our members, there is limited support and not enough off-the-job training time provided by employers, with professional qualifications seen as currency and little value placed on the apprenticeship standard itself.
Rachel Longbottom, head of service and innovation at Bravo Networks, explains the key role apprenticeships can play: “Apprenticeships offer the ability to develop people through technical knowledge, the skills and behaviours of today, and also the skills of the future. It is crucial that employers invest in their apprentices and provide the necessary support and time for them to flourish.”
The CII is committed to championing apprenticeships in our profession and supporting all stakeholders in the successful development, delivery, assessment and quality assurance of insurance apprenticeships.
Manuel Thompson-Oloko is Early Careers Manager at the CII
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Apprenticeship Talent Pool
- Insurance apprenticeships have seen a consistent increase in starts over the last three years. From 1230 in 2018/19 to 1410 starts in 2020/21 across the Insurance Practitioner, Insurance Professional and Senior Insurance Professional apprenticeship standards. The Level 4 Insurance Professional and Level 6 Insurance Professional in particular have seen substantial increases with 24% and 59% respectively.
- Significant improvements in the diversity of starts across all 3 insurance apprenticeship standards. Female starts at level 3 remained fairly constant from 2018 to 2021, starts at level 4 increased from 44% to 51%.
- Apprentices identified as having learning difficulties saw an increase from 6% to 9% over the same period across all insurance standards.
- Learners who identified as black or ethnic minority increased from 8% to 12% on the level 3 and 4 standards, whilst the level 6 standard saw an increase from 9% to 20% - 2018/19 to 2020/21.
- In the same period, the number of apprenticeships starts over the age of 25 rose from 30% to 34% which is indicative of a slight rise in the number of employees being upskilled as opposed to new entrants.