A report this week from the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the number of people starting training schemes has fallen “substantially” since the government introduced reforms to its apprenticeship scheme.
The NAO warned it is now “very unlikely” that the government will meet its target of three million new starts by 2020.
However, industry figures are clear in their support for apprenticeships, arguing they are an excellent way to introduce new talent to the advice sector.
Bringing in fresh blood
One mortgage business that has taken a proactive approach to apprenticeships is Sesame, which launched a new apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Simply Academy in January.
The scheme is aimed at helping with staff development and recruitment, with apprentices following an approved study programme, as well as developing the skills and behaviours needed for the job.
Lisa Winnard, people and services director at Sesame Bankhall Group, noted that with the ageing population of advisers within the industry it was crucial to find ways to attract new blood into the industry.
However, she pointed out that the government levy which supports apprenticeships only covers the cost of the training, but firms will have to bear far more costs in order to bring in those trainees.
“It can take up to two years for them to become qualified, and in that time period they won’t be earning commission or earning for the firm. It would be great if the levy was extended to provide some support beyond for the training itself.
“The other barrier is that the levy is only available for people that are employed, but in our industry lots of people are self-employed,” she added.
Demand has never been stronger for advice
Last month SimplyBiz announced that its New Model Business Academy had 100 apprentices enrolled on its development programme, with plans to boost the initiative’s numbers up to 160 by the end of the year.
Richard Ardron, marketing director of The SimplyBiz Group, argued that demand for professional financial advice has never been stronger.
He added: “The SimplyBiz Group has always been passionate about promoting advice as an attractive career path, and we are fully committed to doing all we can to ensure the long-term growth of our sector.”
Attracting people to financial services
Sesame Bankhall’s Winnard pointed out that interest in these sorts of schemes often came from people that have some form of experience with an adviser, whether that’s because their family used one or they know someone who has worked in an advice role.
She continued: “You don’t find that people go through school and university dreaming of being a broker, they just fall into it.
“We do get lots of people coming to the network that are new to the financial services industry, who particularly come in through protection and giving advice there and build on those skills to move into mortgages.”
Learning at their own pace
Stuart Gregory, managing director of Lentune Mortgage Consultancy, said the financial services industry in particular should welcome apprenticeships.
He added that his firm hopes to bring on board an apprentice in the future “who we can ensure will learn, importantly at their own pace, without the pressure of sales targets as seen in some environments”.
He continued: “If we want the industry to continually improve we need to focus on our clients, and the service we provide.”
Apprenticeships are not just for young people
Outside of the mortgage market, Propertymark Qualifications – the sister organisation of Propertymark – highlighted the fact that apprenticeships are not solely the preserve of young people entering the jobs market for the first time.
Last year Propertymark launched the Level 2 Junior Estate Agent Apprenticeship Standard, a scheme which offers apprentices the chance to get practical, hands on experience and training in the estate agency sector, alongside studying for an industry-recognised standard.
Mike Smith, head of Propertymark Qualifications, said: “It’s important to remember that apprenticeships, including the Junior Estate Agent, are open to people of all ages – from school leavers, through to those considering a career change.”