Financial services apprenticeships – Lessons learned

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As an approved Training Provider and particularly since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in May 2017, Fitch Learning has developed its provision so that we give guidance not just to the Learners but equally as important, to the Employers. That guidance covers a number of areas such as role suitability, learner eligibility, Ofsted, ESFA requirements as well as navigating the contractual arrangements with the Employer.

For Training Providers across the board, one of the many challenges the new Apprenticeship Standards and Levy have presented is how we ensure that the messaging is transparent and correct without deterring employers and learners from taking advantage of the opportunities that these Professional and Personal Development training programmes offer.

Fitch Learning has been working in the Apprenticeship space for over five years. We are now delivering a range of Apprenticeship Programmes, specifically for the financial services industry. In that time, we have seen and learned a lot. The way we deliver Apprenticeships has been and continues to be shaped by our experiences with Employers and Regulatory Bodies alike. Here are some “lessons learned” from Fitch Learning which you may wish to consider if you are thinking about using the Levy to train your employees.

A common misconception is that the mandatory 20% off the job learning requirement means employees have to be out of the office for one day a week

  • Know what you’re signing up for!
    1. Using Levy funding for training is a great opportunity to improve the skillset of your employees but do your research! In the Financial Services space, many programmes have a professional qualification embedded within them. That qualification, be it IAD, IOC, CWM or CFA, can be very attractive to the majority of FS firms and if it can be covered by the Levy, what’s not to like? But – and it’s a big but – the fact is that Apprenticeship programmes involve a lot more than just the professional qualification. At Fitch Learning, our first step is to ensure all the stakeholders are fully informed even before learners enroll. We deliver information or “Insight” sessions for managers and learners to ensure that everyone knows the commitment involved in these programmes before sign-up. That way, there are no nasty surprises further down the road and we can try to limit attrition which negatively impacts on Levy drawdown.
  • Eligibility is key
    1. The new Standards are role based not qualification based. This means that prospective apprentices must be in roles which align to the chosen Standard. There must be enough of a skills gap for the Programme to be of value to the apprentice. Your training provider should carry out a skills scan on all apprentices to ensure that they are on the right programme and that learner progress can be evidenced.
    2. Myth busting20% “off the job” learningWhilst the rules dictate that the 20% must be completed during their contracted working hours, there are many ways of achieving this. internal CPD; lunch and learns; industry updates; mandatory CPD from a professional body; client meetings; seminars and conferences – the list goes on. Apprentices need only be clear about what they have learned and how they might apply it in their roles.
    3. Many of our clients are surprised by what can be included in the 20% off the job learning, making it much more achievable. Basically, any new learning counts, be that in the form of:
    4. This is a big one and rife for misinterpretation in financial services. A common misconception is that the mandatory 20% off the job learning requirement means employees have to be out of the office for one day a week. In fact, making up the 20% learning requirement is much more straightforward than it sounds and certainly does not mean your employees will be away from their desks for a whole day.
    5. Some of the language used in the Standards and Assessment Plans can be misleading. At Fitch Learning, one of our goals is to help clear up any misconceptions which have arisen as a result of ambiguous terminology so let’s try to debunk one of the most common ones:
  • Anyone can be an apprentice!The key element is NEW knowledge, skills and behaviours. It can be difficult to evidence that an existing employee with five plus years’ experience is gaining new knowledge. So think carefully about who you accept onto the programme.
    1. The range of Apprenticeship programmes spans from entry level through to Degree and Master’s level apprenticeships so don’t assume they’re only suitable for your new joiners. You can use the programmes to train graduates and existing employees. Just make sure their roles align to the Standard and that there is sufficient development for them on the programme – again, your Training Provider should be able to work with you to identify development needs and map these to the Standard Assessment Plan.
  • Don’t lose sight of why this initiative was introducedSupporting apprentices and the apprenticeship initiative can yield high returns for the financial services industry in terms of quality of the future workforce but only if we agree that, as an industry, we must support the professional and personal development of those in financial services
  1. Apprenticeships offer a wealth of opportunities to our industry: widening participation, improving “soft” skills as well as enhancing technical knowledge; access to an independent skills coach to work with apprentices on their development; support from the employer and the training provider not to mention what will undoubtedly become an industry standard qualification. These are just some of the benefits of the programmes. However, it requires commitment from not just the training provider and the learner but also the line manager and the employer. Apprentices must be given the space to gain the new learning offered on the programme. Lack of support for the apprentice throughout their learning journey will inevitably lead to failure.
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About Author

Lydia Romero is Apprenticeships Director at Fitch Learning. Part of the Fitch Group, Fitch Learning partners with clients to deepen knowledge, develop skills and enhance conduct, delivering positive business outcomes. With centers in established financial hubs including London, New York, Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong; we are committed to understanding complex client needs across fast paced Financial Markets, globally. Our learning solutions encompass expert faculty, e-learning, coaching and blended candidate assessments, improving individual contribution and collective business performance

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