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Apprenticeships: Quality or Quantity?

Thu, 12/11/2015
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Be Wiser's Crescens George shows you can have both

For Apprentices and Apprenticeship providers, the news that made October memorable was the statements of Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted Chief. He stated, ahead of the Ofsted report on October 18th, that there are too many poor quality apprenticeships and that they are devaluing the scheme at a time when other academic standards are being raised. The guilty industries he called out were retail and care, as they are providing apprenticeships that Sir Michael equates to ‘coffee making’ because they are not giving apprentices employable skills.

With the Government's plans to raise the number of apprenticeships in the UK to 3 million over the next few years there is, according to the Sir. Michael’s comments, a real reason for concern. If 872,000 apprenticeships have already been discredited then this poses serious problems with the government's proposed increases. Most media outlets point to manufacturing as being one of the industries most in need of apprentices, but what is insurance as an industry doing?

October 2015's issue of Insurance People stated "Insurance has always thrived on turning ambitious school leavers into specialised talents, and today's roles need a great deal more humanity than just a string of letters attached to your name." If this is true then why is the industry not doing more? There is clearly a need to put young people to work, and the sheer number of apprentices currently working in the UK shows that there is an abundance of young talent. With this in mind it is fair to say that it is not enough for an insurance company or broker with thousands of employees to take on a dozen or so apprentices and say that they have done their part.

Sir Michael also stated that putting employers in the driver's seat has contributed to the problem in the guilty industries. However, in insurance this approach has helped to create bespoke apprenticeships that can be custom tailored to business needs whilst simultaneously helping young people achieve professional qualifications from the CII and gain valuable work experience.

There are companies within the Insurance sector that can be pointed out to Sir Michael to show that giving insurers and brokers more control can bear excellent fruits. Be Wiser Insurance Brokers, located in Andover, Hampshire, is one of the best examples the industry can offer. Over 250 of the broker's 750+ employees are apprentices. They work in areas across the business including sales, customer service, renewals, business solutions, insurer relations, marketing, training and audit. These roles are not limited to supporting other employees; all apprentices have their own targets and work the same jobs as their colleagues and are expected to perform to the same level. All of this is done whilst they simultaneously study toward various CII qualifications. All of them are currently on track to receive Dip CII and ACII.

Be Wiser is accomplishing everything that all other insurance providers and brokers should be looking to do with their own programs. That is to prepare the next generation of insurers and brokers by enhancing their education and experience in the industry whilst also growing and meeting the current needs of business. It is for these reasons that Be Wiser has won the Large Newcomer Employer of the Year award and, for the second year in a row, Be Wiser has been shortlisted for the Insurance Times Apprenticeships Scheme Award.

If the plans to grow the Government's apprenticeship scheme to 3 million does proceed as planned then other members of the insurance community should take note of what has already been accomplished at Be Wiser. They have shown that it is possible to achieve the quality that Ofsted expects and the quantity that the government wants. There is a wealth of talent that will soon be on apprenticeship programs, it is a wealth that Insurance as an industry cannot afford to let slip away.

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