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Lisa Winnard: Lessons from the continent

As the country’s youth makes its way back to school after an Olympic-fuelled summer, I am sure for many it has kickstarted their dreams and ambitions of future achievement in their prospective chosen field.

We recently held an open day in London inviting people to come to talk to The Financial Adviser School about joining our profession and becoming a financial adviser.

Many of those who attended talked to me about how difficult it is to get into the financial services industry, with limited-entry routes and a lack of opportunities to gain practical experience.

If our profession is typical of other sectors, then the new Government initiatives to encourage more apprenticeship programmes are sorely needed and will hopefully help some of these young people to gain employment.

With the UK economy stumbling and widespread youth unemployment across Britain, we could do well to take a lesson from our European counterparts.

Germany, whose 6.6 per cent unemployment rate compares favourably with the UK’s 8.1 per cent, boasts a renowned two-to-four year apprenticeship programme which attracts roughly two-thirds of vocational school students.

Lisa Winnard Sesame Bankhall 2012

Similarly, in Switzerland, the apprenticeship model based on in-company vocational training has been lauded as the main reason behind the country’s 2.7 per cent unemployment rate.

Austria, with a 4.3 per cent unemployment rate, has also heeded the examples set by its neighbours and has a successful apprenticeship system linking enterprise and schools.

These countries recognise apprenticeships as critical educational and training pathways. Importantly, the favourable unemployment statistics show that this attitude can pay off with regards to the country’s economy.

With recent figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that the number of young people in Britain in long-term unemployment has quadrupled over the last year, I believe the UK needs to take note of Europe’s successful programmes and invest in apprenticeship schemes across the job market.

Such projects can help ensure that the youth of today does not miss out on essential practical training opportunities, so that tomorrow’s generation are well placed to strengthen and progress our fragile economy.

The benefits of such schemes are clear to see and are critical in order to revitalise this market and ensure the progression of our industry.

With professional standards on the increase, we need to train students up to adviser level through a robust system of online and face-to-face learning, along with a personal tutor and an effective mentor system. This will allow students to tailor their learning experience to fit in with their time and also provide them with hands-on experience – an invaluable qualification in today’s market.

Ahead of the RDR, the financial services industry is experiencing an important time of change, with some advisers choosing to leave the profession and others deciding to take a step back and hand their company on to the next generation.
Succession planning is a key issue for the financial services industry and so combining training with mentors’ advice and experience means not only more businesses flourishing post-RDR but, crucially, increased employment.

Now is the time for British companies across all business sectors to take note of the positive results of apprenticeship schemes across Europe and introduce similar programmes closer to home.

Lisa Winnard is director of HR and development at Sesame Bankhall Group

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