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Nigel Benton: Rise to the challenge, reap the rewards

nigelbenton

The appeal of working in the financial services industry has always been great but many young people will likely turn to banks, building societies and insurance providers when looking to start a career in the space. Meanwhile, the specialised financial advice sector is often overlooked as an entry point. To succeed in this arena you need maturity, integrity and excellent people skills. You also need to have passed an exacting array of professional qualifications.

To achieve these qualifications takes time and is far from easy, requiring high-calibre candidates. As a result, recruitment for employers working in the sector is often a struggle. However, employers would do well to look at apprenticeships in order to access a deeper talent pool from which to recruit.

Thousands of motivated young people apply to follow business related apprenticeship routes and there is no reason why advice firms should not also benefit from this. Of those employers that have taken on apprentices, 90 per cent report benefits to their businesses, with 70 per cent reporting their apprentices improved the productivity or quality of their service or product, according to Government research. It is also worth noting that 71 per cent of apprentices stay with their employer once their apprenticeship has ended. Apprenticeships are still often overlooked but the benefits are shown to be great and numerous.

In fact, apprenticeships should be the “go to” solution for all employers across the financial services sector. The apprenticeship route is flexible and employer friendly, allowing for the study of both sector specific and generic business qualifications. Programmes allow employers access to a diverse employee base, ranging in ability and age. A diverse workforce has been shown countless times to add value and competitive advantage to a variety of businesses, including those in the finance industry.

We have seen a significant increase in the number of apprentices training and working in the financial services sector. However, it would appear that, relative to the size of the sector, the level of apprenticeship take up is disproportionately low.

This may well be because many in the financial advice industry are unaware of the support and services available. Unlike many other sectors, financial services does not have a culture or history of using the apprenticeship model to recruit and train its entry level staff. But this no longer needs to be the case since there are many options tailored to fit the industry perfectly. Apprenticeship programmes are often crafted in full consultation with industry specific employers and the delivery is flexible.

The UK economy is beginning to recover. As the number of unemployed decreased, the number of vacancies rose to a record breaking 735,000 between September and November 2014. The year before there was just 140,000 vacancies, according to the Office for National Statistics. As vacancies are created, the pool of potential employees grows smaller. Businesses in all sectors require high quality individuals to become part of their workforce if they are to remain competitive and this is particularly true of the financial advice sector. When the potential for a dearth in human capital grows, the opportunity of the apprenticeship is one that no one can afford to ignore.

Nigel Benton is executive director at the National Skills Academy Financial Services

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