Why finance employers should consider higher and degree-level apprenticeships

07 September, 2020Karen Taylor
Skyscrapers towering up into the sky

Degree-level apprenticeships could help banks, building societies and asset management companies to strengthen their workforces and recruit talent. Karen Taylor explains how  finance companies can take advantage of the apprenticeship levy to fund learning and development and recruit the brightest people.

In a year when we have witnessed the most extraordinary and unprecedented events, the month of August 2020 will surely be remembered for the debacle surrounding the A’level and BTEC results.

A few weeks on and young people continue to scramble for university places. In many cases, the only option seems to be deferring their studies until 2021.

Employment choices across the economy are bleak and will undoubtedly become more so in the months ahead. Therefore, with a fresh pipeline of high-potential, entry-level talent available, should more employers start thinking about higher and degree apprenticeship programmes? 

For banks, asset management firms and building societies that have yet to ‘dip their toes’ into apprenticeships, the idea of venturing into the water during a pandemic might seem a little foolhardy.

Balancing competing and stressful priorities is tough at the best of times – particularly when caused by shifts in working patterns, rises in workload and pressures from organisational restructuring.  And that’s without throwing the added unpredictability of the current economic climate into the mix.

Yet, despite these challenges, now is actually the right time for financial services organisations to consider bolstering their workforce through degree-level apprenticeships.

Use your apprenticeship levy for learning and development

Since 2017, employers with an annual wage bill of over £3m have been paying the apprenticeship levy. However, financial services are still under-utilising apprenticeships and have a lower relative spend on training compared to other sectors.

With learning and development budgets being squeezed across the board, surely our industry has a huge portion of levy funds sitting untapped? 

This money can be used for recruiting new apprentices or upskilling existing employees. Fail to use the levy within 24 months and the funds will disappear.

What’s more, the Chancellor has put in place financial incentives, available until early next year, to encourage organisations to hire apprentices of all ages.

Recruit and nurture talent to suit your business

The adage that apprenticeships enable you to grow your own talent within an organisation is especially pertinent in financial services.

We are working in an industry where 60% of the workforce is in a role requiring a high level of skill, compared to 45% across the wider economy. And that’s only set to increase.

What better way to ensure that the required skills are embedded from day one than to bring people into your organisation at 18? And to have them working – and learning – alongside your already highly experienced staff?

In their January 2020 report, the Financial Services Skills Taskforce told us organisations are looking for employees to have a blend of skills, knowledge and behaviours covering both financial services and digital technology.  

This is exactly what apprenticeships offer. For example, the  degree-level Financial Services Professional apprenticeship develops professionals with the aptitude and technical know-how to operate across the industry, rather than being ‘siloed’ into one niche area.  

Blend academic excellence with practical industry experience

So, why do degree-level apprentices become such an asset to any organisation? 

Since 2017, we’ve been fortunate enough to deliver higher apprenticeships in partnership with leading financial services organisations. That means we’ve seen first-hand how a true collaboration can work.

An employer and higher education provider can co-create tailored, industry-relevant and academically robust programmes. The end result is a motivated workforce, that’s ‘fit for purpose’ and more than ready for the financial services sector of the future.

Karen Taylor
Karen leads the development, implementation and delivery of our apprenticeship strategy, including at higher and degree-level. Karen had a previous career in banking including financial institution relationship management before joining LIBF to specialise on our higher education, online and postgraduate programmes.

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Find out more about our degree-level apprenticeship programmes