Specialist Apprenticeships


The cost effective way to boost your credit, collections, compliance, counter fraud, and debt advice capability by Fiona Macaskill, Director of Learning & Development, Credit Services Association.

Credit Services Association (CSA) is the only UK trade body for the collections and debt purchase industry with more than 250 member companies, employing approximately 11,000 people. It has extensive experience in developing and delivering Learning & Development solutions designed to increase capability, professionalism, standards, talent retention, and social mobility in this heavily regulated and complex sector.

In 2017, CSA became an Approved Apprenticeship Training Provider and now has a track record of enabling employers large and small from the public and private sectors to cost effectively up-skill or re-skill existing or new employees in its special business-critical areas of credit, collections, compliance, counter fraud, and debt advice.

Nick Cherry, CSA Board Director and Chief Operating Officer at CSA member company Phillips & Cohen Associates which has put employees through the CSA’s Level 3 Advanced Credit Controller and Debt Collection Specialist Apprenticeship, says: “In the current environment where some industries are facing unemployment and others have major skills shortages, there has never been a better opportunity to re-skill and up-skill people in specialist areas of financial services, providing an accessible long term career pathway from entry level upwards. Working with our trusted industry association on the delivery of this relevant, practical Apprenticeship standard is enabling us to cost effectively upskill existing and new employees to the highest standards for the long term.

CSA Apprenticeships are not just available to its member firms. Organisations from government agencies and Local Authorities to insurance and legal firms are also benefitting from its specialist expertise

As an industry and as a business, we have always believed in the importance of investing in our people. The better skilled our people are, the better the customer outcomes will be, and this is fundamental to our business. Learning & Development is evolving rapidly, especially since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, and working with the CSA in this space ensures we stay ahead of the curve.

However, CSA Apprenticeships are not just available to its member firms. Organisations from government agencies and Local Authorities to insurance and legal firms are also benefitting from its specialist expertise.

Case study: Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship
CSA works with a digital payment processing firm as a training provider and is currently running the Level 4 Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship for members of its fraud team. The company’s Learning & Engagement Partner comments: “With our vision to be a leading digital processing business in the UK, we have a range of challenges, not least ensuring that our colleagues across the business have up-to-the-minute skills. We were already engaged with the CSA on risk training so when the Counter Fraud Investigator Apprenticeship was recommended to us, it was the perfect fit. Our Senior Fraud Manager started the programme in April 2020 and has gained a huge amount of knowledge. Based on his experience, he recommended two other colleagues to join the programme to further bolster their capability.”

The Senior Fraud Manager, adds: “The programme is giving me exposure and knowledge that will help me continue to lead the function to manage the associated risks appropriately. It has given me a broader perspective on the complex regulatory environment in which we and our client banks operate, enabling us to advise and support them more effectively. It has also helped me to communicate key compliance processes and systems internally by understanding the bigger picture of the legal framework.

“As a senior member of the team, I am responsible for managing my own time to ensure that the apprenticeship integrates well with my day job and I’ve already been able to apply what I’m learning. I will now be able to support other team members when they come to do it, sharing my learnings and experience with them. The programme will give them the opportunity to learn, grow, and take on more complex tasks.

“Through the apprenticeship cohort and CSA team I’ve also benefited from access to industry forums where I have been able to gain best practice insight from people working in wider sectors such as insurance and fraud prevention.”

Case study: Regulatory Compliance Officer Apprenticeship
An Apprenticeships Manager at a Government agency which has a cohort of apprentices on the CSA’s Level 4 Regulatory Compliance Officer programme. She says: “Due to significant ongoing regulatory developments, we are going through a period of rapid growth having recently expanded our workforce of inspectors from 150 to 500+. To make this happen, we had to change our recruitment model from hiring trainee inspectors one at a time to taking on large cohorts all at once, who could be simultaneously trained up in the highly complex regulatory environment in which we operate.

“This presented a perfect opportunity to meet our targets on apprentice numbers as a Government agency and utilise the Apprenticeship Levy, while onboarding and upskilling a future workforce who could help us meet our increasingly complex regulatory responsibilities. As part of the recruitment drive to grow our team of trainee inspectors, we decided to offer the apprenticeship route to those with a Science A-Level alongside the traditional entry route for those with biological Science Degrees. Having people who can undertake labour intensive inspection tasks but also understand wider implications of complying with complex national and international legislation is vital for us. The Level 4 Regulatory Compliance Officer Apprenticeship provides an ideal pathway for our needs which also allows our new inspectors to work alongside our experienced inspectors and take part in more specialised internal training.

“We chose to work with CSA because of their track record of quality delivery tailored to unique organisational needs and their background as a well established trade association in a heavily regulated niche sector. From the outset, they worked hard to understand what we were trying to achieve and took the time to understand the specific legislation we have to comply with, and how we work as an organisation within the regulatory environment. We needed flexibility when it came to the 20% ‘off the job’ training to make it work around our internal training and around the varied roles that inspectors play, which can involve a lot of peaks and troughs in workload. The CSA team came up with solutions which maintained the quality of the Apprenticeship while making it practical to undertake as part of the role.

“We were able to attract and recruit 42 candidates from a range of backgrounds, many of whom fulfilled the criteria to go down the traditional route but wanted to do the Apprenticeship anyway because of what it offered them in terms of vital transferable skills. We were initially expecting to mainly attract school leavers but have ended up with a cohort of apprentices aged between 20 and 63!

“These apprentices were taken on at the same time as a cohort of trainee inspectors with degrees which will allow us to compare the quality and competence of each group. What we have found so far is that the apprentices have been able to grasp the huge volumes of specific legislation that we deal with. We are also hopeful that under the Apprenticeship scheme they will quickly gain an understanding of the wider context of regulatory compliance, which will not only give them wider career prospects, but also enable them to more effectively fulfil their role with us.

“Although they are learning about compliance in a wider context, key elements of the Apprenticeship directly relate to their ‘day job’. We’re working with the CSA team and line managers to come up with topics for the Apprenticeship project that will be useful to the business, allowing us to complete pieces of work that we would need to do anyway.

“Line managers tell us that apprentices are enthusiastic, capable, and keen to complete all their training and get out there and do the job. Some apprentices are already starting shadow inspectors and do some of the inspections themselves.

“The CSA team has been very responsive throughout the process so far, going the extra mile to gain and take on board feedback, and adapt the programme and our and our learners’ changing needs. The fact that our apprentices have hit the ground running and started progressing, developing, and adding value to the organisation straight away is a very good sign of things to come.”

Find out more about CSA Apprenticeships here: https://www.csa-uk.com/apprenticeships

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About Author

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Fiona Macaskill, Director of Learning & Development, Credit Services Association. The Credit Services Association (CSA) is the only National Association in the UK for organisations active in the debt collection and purchase industry. The Association, which has a history dating back to 1906, has 300 member companies which represent 90% of the industry, and employ 11,000 people. At any one time its members hold up to £60 billion for collection, returning nearly £3 billion in collections to the UK economy per annum. As the voice of the collections industry, our vision is to build confidence in debt collection by making the entire process clear, easy to understand and less stressful for all those involved. Further information on the CSA can be found at: http://www.csa-uk.com

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