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The Credit Services Association (CSA)
Maximising the opportunity of apprenticeships
Fiona Macaskill is Head of Learning & Development at the Credit Services Association (CSA); the UK trade body for the debt collection sector.
The fanfare arrival of the Government’s campaign and incentive to create thousands of apprenticeships nationwide is in serious danger of fading to a muted squeak if the latest reports are to be believed. And that means a seriously wasted opportunity for all of us working in the credit industry.
Last month the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) put in a freedom of information request that discovered that £1.28bn of the £1.39bn paid by Levy paying employers is currently sitting unused. The AELP’s Chief Executive and Policy Director both expressed dismay at the calls from employment organisations such as the CBI that the Government should relax the levy and dilute it into more ‘general’ skills training.
The AELP is an unequivocal supporter of the levy and believes that for the foreseeable future the levy should be ring-fenced to fund only apprenticeships. Its leaders are also exasperated by the misleading coverage given to the subject in the media and say that the levy could be a genuine ‘game changer’ in improving productivity, social mobility, and quality. In this we are agreed.
As I write, whilst we are having some great conversations with members unfortunately, at this first anniversary of the levy, the first have yet to signup to a CSA Apprenticeship scheme. It may be that the investment has been made with other providers, but even if that is the case then the numbers are still small. Given the size of our membership, and those who qualify for the levy, we estimate that more than £1m is leaking from our industry.
Amidst all of this, however, is some positive news regarding what those outside of our industry are doing. Whereas CSA Apprenticeships may not have yet had the traction we anticipated within credit services, others have been quicker to recognise the value they can deliver. We now have more than 20 firms signed up to our Apprenticeships, coming from big brand names across different industries such as insurance, food and beverage and the public sector.
There was also more good news recently with the welcome announcement from the Department for Education that businesses are being allowed to share a proportion of their levy funding with another company. This is something we would actively and urgently encourage our members, and the wider industry, to consider.
Within the field of debt collection and consumer credit, a number of specific apprenticeship standards have been created that are being offered and supported by the CSA. These range from the new standard in Credit Control through to the most advanced Senior Compliance/Risk Specialist Apprenticeship standard, and every point in between.
From this month, all levy-paying firms will be able to share up to 10% of their levy with one other company or organisation of their choosing. This could be in support of their supply chain (e.g it could be a debt buyer supporting a Panel member), or to support their wider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda, enabling apprenticeship opportunities for other businesses and individuals who might not otherwise be funded.
Whether you are a levy-paying business who is not able to spend all your levy, or a non-paying business who wishes to join a CSA Apprenticeship programme, we believe this is good news for our industry. What is particularly exciting is that any non-levy paying firms who access apprenticeship funding this way will then not be required to pay a 10% contribution, which means a ‘win-win’ for all parties concerned.
It will be interesting to see how this news is received, and whether it acts as a catalyst for those who have yet to embrace the apprenticeships’ initiative to finally take action. If it does, then we are well placed to support them.