What does the Apprenticeship Levy mean for the industry?

Employers with an annual wage bill exceeding £3million now face a new tax – how are insurers responding?

What does the Apprenticeship Levy mean for the industry?

Insurance News

By Lucy Hook

It’s that time of year again when the kids head back to school, but with the government’s Apprenticeship Levy now in place, many insurance firms are taking on their own new recruits too.

Just a few examples include Manchester-based Principal Insurance, which revealed that it has recruited three school-leavers to join its new two-year training programme, and Reading-based Covéa Insurance, which has launched an in-house degree and taken on five apprentices.

The Apprenticeship Levy, which came into effect in April this year, is effectively a tax on all UK employers with an annual wage bill of more than £3million, to support the funding of apprenticeships. Businesses that meet the criteria are charged 0.5% of their total Pay As You Earn tax bill, and can claim it back to fund apprenticeship training – which the government will also then top up by 10% each month.

“A lot of businesses have written off the Apprenticeship Levy as another tax,” Matthew Metcalfe, claims manager at Covéa Insurance, told Insurance Business.

“At Covéa Insurance, we see it as an opportunity to invest in our workforce and equip our people with the skills needed for our future growth and success. The recruitment of our first five-degree apprentices is just the start. Our aspiration is to have 10% of our workforce on an ‘earn and learn’ journey within five years.”

The insurer’s new recruits will work towards a tailored software and web development degree, alongside working in the company’s IT team – bringing in skills which Metcalfe said are increasingly critical for the industry.

“We’ve been wowed by [technology] as an industry and the fact that you can now settle a claim in a couple of days, but for our customers actually that is an expectation and a standard now. I think they compare us to the Amazons and the Ubers of the world,” Metcalfe commented.

The company was “blown away” when it recruited a group of IT graduates last year, who Metcalfe said came into the business and started “designing chatbots in their own time and linking them to Amazon’s Alexa.” From there, Covéa decided to develop its own pool of talent to help future-proof the business.

“In five years’ time, we’re going to have our own, very large pool of resources available to us to continue to push the boundaries as to what customers need,” the claims manager said.

As for diversity in the industry, the picture has been improving, but the new levy will help break down even more barriers, according to Metcalfe.

“It’s quite refreshing to see that [diversity] is something that people are taking quite seriously now. I think the levy now means that all the previous restrictions around age, and qualifications, are now removed. And I think what that gives us is an opportunity to say to someone, whether you’re 16 or 60, there are choices that you can make in your career,” he said.
“The levy opens [the industry] up and means that we can bring in a much more diverse range of people, so we get different viewpoints, and it’s really useful for us as a business – when you’re in a meeting with a diverse group of people, smarter decisions get made.”

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