Time to look again at apprenticeship schemes

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Firms in the insurance sector have been slow to take advantage of the generous financial support currently available for apprenticeship schemes

At a time when our society and economy were changing faster than ever before, Covid-19 has slammed on the accelerator. Cash transactions vanished almost overnight. Working from home became the norm in many sectors. Retail and hospitality businesses have taken repeated hammer blows. With the OECD predicting that the UK economy will contract by 11.2% this year, many businesses now shutting their doors may never reopen.

The Office for National Statistics recorded 370,000 job losses in the three months to October, adding to an annual total that could well reach over a million. Even before factoring in any impact from Brexit, we’re living in an era of unprecedented uncertainty and transformation.

For our clients in the world of insurance, uncertainty and change bring opportunities as well as challenges. Times like these help make the case for purchasing insurance, by bringing home the need to protect our lives and our businesses from the unexpected.

It’s clearer than ever that only the strongest and best-managed businesses will survive and prosper

But, as we recover from the shock of Covid-19 during 2021, it’s clearer than ever that only the strongest and best-managed businesses will survive and prosper. As technology supplants less highly skilled roles across multiple sectors, expertise and professionalism matter more than ever.

With more and more people facing interrupted career paths and more of those leaving full-time education finding avenues closed off to them, gaining new skills is a pressing priority. The government’s Rethink Reskill Reboot ad campaign met resistance when it suggested ballerinas should retrain as IT workers. But, one way or another, retraining looks set to loom large in the world of work in the coming months and years.

Given all this, I am constantly surprised by how slow many firms in the insurance sector have been to take advantage of the generous financial support currently available for apprenticeships. If your business is big enough to pay into the apprenticeships levy, you can draw on funding from that. If not, you can still access funding for up to 95% of the cost of taking on an apprentice. Funding is available for individuals of all ages, from school leavers up, and for both new recruits and existing employees.

Given which, why would you not want to explore how apprenticeships can equip current or prospective employees with the skills they need to build a career and which your business needs to attract and retain new clients?

The learning content of apprenticeship schemes can be precisely tailored to meet the anticipated needs of your business moving forward. The market for providing insurance services is only going to get more competitive through the 2020s, and up-skilling your team can give your firm an edge.

Part of that process is securing the best available talent to build a stronger business for the future. On which note, it’s worth noting that over and above its support for their employment costs, the government is currently offering incentive payments of up to £2,000 for employers who take on apprentices.

Conversely, if you’re more interested up-skilling tried and tested employees whose skill sets no longer fit your future requirements, apprenticeship schemes could meet your needs and theirs.

For anyone whose idea of an apprenticeship is still the old cliché of a 16-year old learning a manual trade, it’s time to recognise that times have changed and apprenticeships today are hugely flexible. Exactly what’s on offer varies across the four nations of the UK, but if you haven’t looked into what apprenticeships could do for your business, now’s the perfect time to do so.

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Nikki Bennett is Director at Searchlight Insurance Training. Searchlight works with more than 50 specialist trainers with hands-on insurance experience to deliver more than 1,000 training days per year. We offer an unmatched range of face-to-face and e-learning resources across the full spectrum of technical insurance skills and business skills training.

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