The history of apprenticeships in the UK can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when the initiatives originated with upper-class parents sending their children away to live and train with host families. Apprenticeships in the UK have a rich and varied history, marked by several key milestones, most recently by the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy Fund by the government in April 2017.
Growth & client success director at Davies, Carolyn Blunt noted that since its introduction, the levy has dictated that any employer with a wage bill of over £3 million must pay the apprenticeship levy to HMRC. This money can be for apprenticeship training for anybody across your organisation or new talent coming into the industry, she said, and larger organisations are invited to gift any unused levy to smaller organisations before it expires.
Digging into the work done by Davies to support apprenticeships across insurance, Blunt highlighted that 17 out of the 20 leading insurance firms use its expertise for insurance apprenticeships, with 1,500 learners choosing to study with Davies each year.
“We’re in a really good place to help,” she said. “And we’ve got industry experts within our divisions that can really add value to these programmes and these conversations. We are very much focused around financial services, predominantly within insurance. About 90% of our entire revenue comes from insurance organisations and we are the largest provider for insurance apprenticeship standards here in the UK.”
Setting the scene on why insurance apprenticeships are so valuable, Graeme Pratt, client relationship manager at Davies, identified some of the key challenges faced by insurance businesses within the market at the moment which include:
With one in three UK workers considering a career change in 2022, this is a critical conversation, he said. And there’s a real focus on DEI, considering that women make up just 23% of c-suite, 10% of CEOs and chair only 8% of insurance boards globally (as of 2019).
“A lot of this focus is around some of the challenges that have existed post-COVID as well,” he said. “One in three UK workers are considering a career change at the moment and a lot of that comes from the change of circumstance and change of opportunities that might exist in the market. And what does this mean?... There are a number of things that this drives and results in that that will lead towards us needing to provide solutions.
“One of the key things here in that there’s been a real shift, is the fact that the candidates who are out in the market are the ones who are in the driving seat now. They’re looking for more from roles that are available in the market, not just in terms of salary expectation, but in terms of clear talent pathways, opportunities and challenges in their day-to-day roles.”
Candidates are more willing to actively look for their ideal roles and for opportunities that they might not have been looking for historically, Pratt said. And so, organisations now need to focus on building a culture their teams can be proud of, and finding the right talent to match their values. And businesses need to think more creatively about how to attract and retain talent, now that it’s no longer as straightforward as it perhaps was in previous years.
“And there is perhaps also a lack of qualified individuals out there in the market,” he said. “[…] So how do we build that qualification and that technical capability over time? And obviously, the upshot of all of this is that if we’re not getting talented people into businesses, there’s a potential impact on customer experience somewhere down the line.”
Exploring the solutions that apprenticeships offer these challenges, Pratt highlighted that these can be broken down into two key silos – recruiting apprentices for early careers, emerging talent and graduates, and retaining and developing existing talent through apprenticeships.
The former is more on the recruitment side, he said, and looks into what it means to bring somebody into your business who is being recruited as an apprentice and has an expectation that they’re going through a formal, structured learning program. The second solution is around retaining existing employees, and it’s critical to bear in mind how learning solutions should be utilised to benefit existing staff as well as new joiners.
“We believe that apprenticeships are a suitable solution for both routes,” he said. “[…] The ABI has confirmed they’re looking to double the number of apprenticeships across the insurance and long-term savings sector by 2025. And there are a large number of employers out there that are saying that when they have used apprenticeships, it does increase and improve staff retention.”
There’s a lot of research out there that proved individuals who come up the apprenticeship route are more likely to stay with a business, Pratt said. And touching on Davies’ successes to date, he highlighted that 94% of Davies’s apprentices have a first-time pass rate when engaging with their CII studies.
“Also, from a Davies’ perspective, 70% of our apprentices also receive a distinction,” he said. “That’s one of the things that sets apprenticeships apart from the self-study route - that you actually are formally assessed in terms of your capability within the role, not just the technical qualification.”