Ask the experts: New style apprenticeships

Apprenticeships have evolved rapidly over the past few years. Representatives from two UK-based financial institutions give their take on the benefits that employing talented young apprentices brings

With opportunities moving away from traditional blue collar training to white collar, a new type of apprenticeship has been born.  

The Richard review of apprenticeships, a 2012 Government studyfound that as they stood, many apprenticeships were no longer fit for purpose. It revealed that apprentices often required additional training to enable them to carry out their roles. The result of the review has inspired change that spans across all sectors and industries, and the launch of 'trailblazer' apprenticeship schemes. These are led by groups of employers developing standards to ensure that apprentices are competent and fully trained on completion of the programme, so they have the relevant skills, knowledge and behaviours to succeed in their chosen role.  

Trailblazer programmes are fully supported by the Government, which has set a target to get three million people onto an apprenticeship by 2020. The Government has also introduced an apprenticeship levy of 0.5% on businesses with a payroll of more than £3m, so there has never been a better time to start running a programme. 

The financial services industry is embracing the opportunities that these new professional apprenticeships offer, especially as they provide access to a new pool of talent and provide an alternative route for young people considering entering the sector.  

Apprenticeships are central to raising skills and employability in the UK, with more opportunities available for students (16+) wishing to enter financial services through an apprenticeship than ever before. They provide an alternative route for those wishing to enter the industry without a degree, with many of the top banks offering competitive apprenticeship programmes. They also now provide a great opportunity to develop existing staff to propel them to the next level of their career.

The CISI has worked with a range of employers to help develop three new investment operations apprenticeship standards (Investment Operations Administrator, Investment Operations Technician and Investment Operations Specialist), and CISI qualifications are now available as technical units in seven different financial services apprenticeships. These are:
• Investment Operations Administrator (level 2)
• Investment Operations Technician (level 3)
• Financial Services Administrator (Adviser firm or Network) (level 3)
• Senior Financial Services Customer Adviser (level 3)
• Investment Operations Specialist (level 4)
• Paraplanner (level 4)
• Relationship Manager (Banking) (level 6) 

Gemma Bianchi, Senior Associate, Junior Talent Pipeline Manager, and Phillip Paige, Vice President,
Schools & College Engagement, both from J.P. Morgan, share their insight on running successful apprenticeships

How do the new apprenticeships differ to those previously used? Are they clearer and easier to run, for example?The new trailblazer style of apprenticeship is simpler to understand, more relevant and better suited to our industry. The migration from the original task books to a showcase portfolio at the end of the programme is a giant step in the right direction.
Would you encourage financial services firms to offer apprenticeships?Absolutely. Our apprentices are a complementary offering to our graduate programme and allow us as a firm to bring in exceptional talent from a different source, for example, post college or sixth form. Our apprentices are vibrant, intelligent and contribute from day one, whether that is by identifying new ways to work or joining some of our business resource groups on site, helping to organise events around their day job.

Can you provide any feedback on how the new Investment Operations Specialist trailblazer is working out for your apprenticeships?We are more than happy with the new framework. It is simple to follow, specific enough to be relevant to our industry and broad enough to fit across multiple lines of business.

What is the benefit to employers of properly investing in an apprenticeship scheme?A programme run properly can allow companies to nurture, develop and retain some of the most talented school leavers. With the right support and opportunity, apprentices thrive and have proven they have the aptitude to become future leaders.

What benefits do apprentices bring to the broader financial services industry?Apprentices bring a diversity of mindset and approach that can really promote change and challenge the established norm. This is extremely healthy in all environments, including financial services.

What sort of thing do apprentices get involved with and what do you think are the main benefits for them?Along with a full-time role, the apprentices at J.P. Morgan are involved in a number of initiatives, such as charitable events, talks in schools, internal communities, sports teams and networking. Within their day role, apprentices are encouraged to make process improvements and cross train to develop personal skills.

Darrel Sansom, Managing Director at AXA Business Insurance based in Glasgow, provides his perspective on the benefits of apprenticeship programmes

How do the new apprenticeships differ to those previously used?Apprentices nowadays get the same hands-on experience that they did in the past, but it is now backed up by formal assessment. This means they are measured against national criteria and come out with industry-recognised qualifications.

What benefit have you as an employer felt by properly investing in your apprenticeship scheme?There are more than 50 apprentices currently working in our offices across the UK. For our business insurance wing in Glasgow though, it’s something relatively new. We recruited our first six apprentices in 2014, and then added a further six school-leavers at the end of last year. 

When we first started the scheme, youth unemployment was at 20% in Scotland – and as an employer, we wanted to do our bit to give local young people a start. Of course, it’s not a one-way street – we are also receiving a benefit back to our business. As our industry digitalises at a rapid pace, we need the fresh, quirky, unexpected ideas that drive online success. And that is exactly what we are getting from our young apprentices, as well as the solid professional expertise that they build along the way.

What benefits do apprenticeships bring to the broader financial services industry? Walk around the centre of Glasgow and you’ll see many beautiful, old insurance offices dating right back to the nineteenth century. And the insurance industry remains rooted in the city to this day. By bringing young people in, we are ensuring that the industry has a workforce and a future here in Glasgow and the UK.

Nationally, the insurance industry is undergoing a deep transformation, as it crosses over into the digital world. Businesses that can constantly fuel their online business with original, innovative ideas have the competitive edge. And young people, who come to the industry with fresh eyes, are the most valuable asset we have.

What sort of thing do apprentices get involved with and what do you think are the main benefits for them?Our apprentices learn how a global business operates, and also get to know our small business customers. This gives them an extraordinary insight into almost every business sector you can imagine. They’ll be talking to our customers about fire risk in construction in the morning, then helping put together a policy for an accountant in the afternoon.

At the end of the apprenticeship, they will also have formal qualifications needed to pursue a serious career in our industry. 

Have you adopted the trailblazer apprenticeship model at AXA? Our English offices will take on its first group of trailblazer apprentices at the start of next year. Here in Glasgow, we have worked with Skills Development Scotland in creating new industry qualifications for school pupils and school leavers. 

For us, it wasn’t just a case of taking on apprentices and following an existing course – we had to help create a new course, specially adapted to our industry, right from the start. 

Would you encourage financial firms to offer apprenticeships?We recently invited a group of business leaders into our office to meet our young apprentices. The presentations given by these young school leavers were astonishing – professional, confident and passionate. I say ‘astonishing’ quite simply because many of them left school only a year ago, and already I can put them in front of a business audience and know they will represent our business like pros. 

Apprenticeships move on fast, and these youngsters are utterly committed. The only difficulty you will face is in keeping pace with their ideas and drive yourselves!

To find out more about financial services apprenticeships, how to set up and run one at your firm, how the Government levy will affect you and how to use it to your advantage visit our dedicated apprenticeship page or contact us at
Published: 17 Mar 2016
  • The Review
  • Operations
  • Young People
  • CISI
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  • apprenticeships
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