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The Credit Services Association (CSA)
The generation game
From CCR Magazine - April 2016
David Sheridan, CSA Board Director
Apprenticeships are being driven forward across industry, and the government is fully committed to delivering three million apprenticeships in England by 2020.
Larger firms are being persuaded, through a type of ‘reversed incentivisation’, to recruit an ever-increasing number into their firms. This will take the form of the Apprenticeship Levy, which will go ahead in April 2017.
The mechanics of the levy are simple, being made up of an annual 0.5% charge on all companies whose payrolls exceed £3m. It does seem those in financial services are well placed to cope, since they already have a series of standards for banking, insurance, pensions, mortgages, and our own industry, which has a credit and collections scheme, jointly spearheaded by the CSA and the Chartered Institute of CreditManagement.
These standards are employer-designed apprenticeship programmes, approved by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). Standards are developed through the Trailblazer process by steering groups of employers and trade bodies who ensure they meet the needs of employers and deliver the best results for the sector. With the blessing of BIS, the Trailblazer is then approved.
Take up is steady but, as new standards are approved, government is confident employers will stand behind the initiative.
Our industry, with its desire to ensure that the industry has access to Apprenticeship Standards which are fit for purpose, is being well supported by BIS. The department has given approval for a Level 2 Credit Controller Standard and has given the go-ahead for the development of a second initiative, the Advanced Credit Control and Debt Collection Trailblazer Apprenticeship Standard, and the Compliance and Risk Professional Apprenticeship Standard. Our industry, and the financial services sector as a whole, is anticipated to make a significant contribution towards the £2.730bn government expects the Apprenticeship Levy will raise in its first year.
There are concerns at this extra burden on a heavily regulated industry. However, there is considerable evidence that high-quality apprenticeship programmes add value and provide long-term benefits, including reduced costs, better staff retention, higher levels of employee engagement, and more highly competent staff who treat customers well. Through an employer-led standard, we envisage a credit controller or collector attaining the required competence within 18 months, and have developed sufficient skills to enable apprentices to work for firms of any size.
At a recent conference, financial and professional services firms showed a real appetite for apprenticeships, and not just those of school leaving age. Indeed, a large number of apprentices are over the age of 18. Age does not matter, an Apprenticeship Standard can be delivered for anyone who is developing in their roles or moving to a new role, and can be a valuable part of a firm’s talent management strategy.
An independent assessment at the end of a standard will be uniform, ensuring each apprentice will have a consistent benchmark to be measured against. This will raise the quality and integrity of apprenticeships, and improve the quality of the workforce across the financial services sector as a whole.
In providing the same assurance of quality across the board, apprentices will see their results graded to deliver a genuine choice between entering auniversity education and going straight into business. In many cases, they will attain a degree-level professional qualification.
Apprenticeships are being developed as part of the broader strategy to expand and enrich the pool from which firms recruit their talent, placing equal emphasis on recruiting people without a degree with the potential to work at the highest level in the future.
Government will, no doubt, put a time limit on firms using specific apprenticeship funding, but policy is evolving in this area and the precise details are yet to appear. All firms, whether they are levy paying or non-levy-paying, should be taking note. Non levy-paying firms will still be able to enrol candidates on these valuable Industry apprenticeship schemes designed by employers. Those firms who will be levy paying should start making plans for how they are going to use their levy.
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