“Apprenticeships are often perceived as a route to engineering jobs for example, which is a brilliant route, but we need to highlight that they’re also a path to a career in financial services,” said RSA UK HR commercial director Nick Skinner. “Apprenticeships here aren’t as pronounced as elsewhere.”
He said raising awareness was crucial to the sector playing its part in combatting youth unemployment, and in ensuring healthy succession planning.
“This is a route to bring in young talent, to make sure our succession pipeline is really strong for the underwriter population, which is an ageing population across the industry.”
Lee Money, director of regions for northern England, reported that when RSA first launched its underwriting apprenticeship programme five years ago in Manchester, only one other insurance firm offered a similar scheme. The RSA initiative is still the only one available in Manchester.
“In an era where youth unemployment is so high, this is about making sure there are opportunities for people. Which is why we’ve now spread our scheme between different areas of the UK,” agreed Skinner, who added that a scheme launched in London this year has joined established programmes in the South East and in Manchester.
The programme involves five to seven apprentices taken on in each region every year, who train on the job to achieve their insurance certificate and are guaranteed a position at the firm for three years.
The company advertises the opportunities through trade and college fairs, online university job boards, local press (both city centre and publications distributed to the outskirts of the city, in the case of Manchester), working with RSA’s college clients, and through word of mouth internally.
The firm is also working with the mayor of London’s team on a campaign to raise financial services apprenticeships’ visibility. It strongly advocates partnerships with others in the sector.
For example, RSA is partnering with brokers it works with to help them find apprenticeship candidates, and to collaborate on an apprenticeship exchange scheme where apprentices can undertake a spell working at the other company.
Skinner reported gradual progress in the number of financial sector firms switching onto apprenticeship schemes and raising awareness around these.
“Our broker partners and competitors are starting to show an interest in that,” he explained.
“You can see them now switching on to the idea of growing their own talent,” added Money.