Covid-19 has accelerated the move to digital in banking and finance, so the financial sector needs to upskill staff. But there’s still time to take advantage of government funding for training and apprenticeships. Carolyn Blunt looks at funding and how to make apprenticeships part of a financial firm’s L&D strategy.
The past year has belonged to virtual learning and development (L&D), with the pandemic changing the way we live, work and learn. With budget cuts, furloughed colleagues and new ways of working, we’ve needed to rethink how the financial services industry can build the skills it needs for the future.
Unemployment across the UK has been on the rise and is expected to reach as high as 10% by the end of 2021. Sadly, we’ve also seen the number of apprenticeship starts fall – despite extra funding initiatives from the government.
Government funding for training and apprenticeships
In July 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an investment of £1.6bn to scale up employment support schemes, training and apprenticeships.
This was due to end in January 2021 but has been extended to 30 September 2021.
Firms can claim £3,000 for new hires who are on the payroll by 30 September 2021. They can also access up to £18,000 for Level 6 training – leading to chartered status – for employees who are registered and have started an apprenticeship programme by 30 November 2021.
Skills and career support is of critical importance to our country’s economic recovery from the global pandemic. Our future prosperity depends not only on the number of people in work, but how productive and effective they are at work.
How apprenticeships support financial services
This extra funding has brought an excellent opportunity for our industry to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours it needs for the future.
Apprenticeships are an excellent way for people to progress and achieve their qualifications.
They also ensure employers have the right mix of skills and knowledge in their workforce. This enables firms to work productively and effectively while they adapt and innovate for the future financial needs of our country and communities.
Apprenticeships are available to people of any age for courses up to the equivalent of degree level, and can be completed at any point in a person’s career.
Changing perceptions of apprenticeships
But there’s still some stigma associated with apprenticeships, and it’s essential we continue to combat this with clear messaging.
Economic pressures have tightened L&D budgets. So, many employers have started to change the perceptions people have held – that an ‘apprenticeship’ is too low level or that they wouldn’t be eligible due to prior study.
Importantly, we’re seeing that the perception is changing amongst employees too.
Fewer than 3% of our apprentices at the Davies Group chose to take a ‘break in learning’ due to Covid-19, although the sector average was closer to 19%.
Across the financial firms we work with, employees are more motivated to take apprenticeships on and achieve qualifications than they were before the pandemic. More employees than ever before are approaching us and want to know more about taking on apprenticeships.
By integrating the apprenticeship levy into your firm’s future talent strategy, you create a unique opportunity to progress employees’ skills and development – even when budgets are tight.
Carolyn Blunt is a Growth and Client Success Director at Davies Group. An L&D professional, author and industry speaker, she’s been directing the design and delivery of learning programmes for more than 20 years. As a Fellow of the CIPD, she works with employers to identify and fill their learning gaps using apprenticeship levy funding.
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