The financial and legal services sector is already taking positive steps towards vocational training, developing apprenticeships, and increasing opportunities in the industry. Further development must include even greater awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships to both companies and to young people, together with the provision of additional quality apprenticeship places. Educators can influence young people's career choices by communicating the potential of a quality apprenticeship in providing a path to a satisfying and rewarding career.
In the July 2013 report, A Consultation on Funding Reform for Apprenticeships in England, the government set out its long-term vision for apprenticeships, together with proposals for achieving that vision. The document outlined three options to deliver a reformed system of Apprenticeship funding, and requested input from businesses and training providers to develop the models. A further open Consultation will be concluded in October 2013.
Overall, the recommendations aim to give employers more control over apprenticeships, and ensure all apprenticeships are rigorous and responsive to employers' needs. Within the financial services industry, there has already been a positive reaction to vocational training, with increased numbers of apprenticeships and vacancies.
That demand is reflected in the numbers collated by the National Apprenticeship Service, which shows that apprenticeship participation, overall, has increased steadily in every year since 2007/08. The total volume of apprenticeship starts in 2011/12 was 520,600, which was an increase of 13.9 per cent compared to 2010/11, and up to 20,000 vacancies were available to students receiving their GCSE results this summer.
The Financial & Legal Skills Partnership, whose role is to support employers in the finance, accounting, legal and financial services sector in meeting their skills needs, sees future challenges to businesses in meeting this increased demand.
While public awareness of apprenticeships was formerly in the more 'traditional' trade industries, appreciation of apprenticeships in the financial and legal sectors is now gaining ground. The bigger challenge is to create additional apprenticeships, while still maintaining quality. Employers, training providers and awarding organisations who want to develop a new framework will need to ensure quality remains a constant factor while increasing the number and range of apprenticeships.
More than 7,000 apprenticeships started across the financial services sector in 2011/2012, spanning all disciplines from accounting, payroll, bookkeeping and professional services to providing financial services, financial advice and mortgage advice. As companies look to fuel the next chapter of growth, it is these quality apprenticeships that will attract enthusiastic young people, who can be moulded into a company's culture, and ensure continued development in the financial and legal sectors.
Higher apprenticeships (which can lead to NVQ Level 4 and above, or a Foundation Degree) have shown significant growth, and the Financial & Legal Skills Partnership has helped develop employer-led higher apprenticeship frameworks. These include major programmes offering apprenticeships to Level 4 and Level 7, which can lead to chartered status in Accountancy, Audit, and Tax. Other apprenticeships in England for those aged 16 and over include Intermediate (equivalent to 5 GCSE passes), and Advanced, which is equivalent to 2 A-level passes.
It is critical that sector firms participate in developing effective, higher apprenticeships that will welcome young people in finding ways into the industry other than through the traditional university route.
Apprenticeships are a key factor in communicating new opportunities and rewarding career opportunities in the business sector, while ensuring industry's renewed growth and professionalism. A recent forecast from the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated that 3.8 million people will complete an Apprenticeship between 2012-13 and 2021-22; it is estimated this would contribute £3.4 billion to the UK economy a year in productivity gains by 2022.
Educators have a critical role in guiding talented young people, from various backgrounds and capabilities, in attaining the best possible vocational training, which can invigorate and strengthen all sectors of UK business.
Liz Field is chief executive of the Financial and Legal Skills Partnership, an employer-led organisation that represents large firm partners on the current skills issues affecting the industry