Apprentices are a key ingredient of a successful, modern workforce

Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular option for young people. For those who complete A-levels with a firm idea of their career path, entering their chosen industry directly may seem like a better option than committing to years of student debt. Equally, for those who find the cost of university prohibitive, or are just eager to get straight to work, apprenticeships provide an avenue to ‘earn as they learn’. The Government is committed to increasing the number of apprentices in the UK and in April 2017 introduced the Apprenticeship Levy to fund this initiative. All firms with an annual pay bill of over £3m have to pay a 0.5% levy on their monthly salary bill which can be used to fund approved training for certain employees. Businesses that don’t adapt their recruitment processes to include an apprenticeship scheme will miss out on much of the young talent entering the market and also an opportunity to utilise some of their levy payment.

This autumn, Asta launched its first apprenticeship scheme. We selected two candidates, Lawrence Christophe and Millie Owen who will be with us for 18 months, after which there may be the opportunity to become permanent employees if suitable roles are available. To provide them with the opportunity to develop a broad set of skills and gain an in-depth understanding of the Lloyd’s market as well as Asta’s business and culture, our apprentices will engage in 6 month placements in one of three areas; Underwriting Management, Risk and Compliance, Finance or Operations. Apprentices are required to complete 20% ‘off the job’ training, which could include attending market seminars, shadowing colleagues etc. With the support of our Levy training partner, FWD, our apprentices are being supported through the CII Certificate in Insurance (Cert CII). At the end of the 18 month term, the apprentices will receive a completion bonus and a further bonus if they successfully complete the Cert CII.

The Lloyd’s market has always embraced a ‘learning on the job’ philosophy, and apprenticeships provide a vehicle to put that philosophy into action. We interviewed a number of applicants for our apprenticeship scheme, and were extremely impressed by the standard of candidates that we saw. There is clearly a pool of young talent migrating towards apprenticeships as well as university programmes. While a degree course is a necessity for some professions and provides a valuable academic and social experience, Asta do not consider it essential for a career in the insurance industry.

Apprenticeships can also push insurers to recruit outside of their usual talent pool. Our industry is changing and through raised awareness in the importance of diversity and inclusion we are facing new challenges. Employers need to focus on recruiting applicants from a variety of backgrounds so that the workforce is made up of professionals with diverse skillsets and expertise. This will require a different recruitment approach to ensure that all applicants with potential are included. Graduate schemes often bring in a selection of applications with similar backgrounds. Apprenticeships are therefore a valuable way in which we can ensure that bright, talented, young individuals are not turned away just because they do not fit the typical ‘insurance’ profile.

An additional benefit that apprentices can bring an employer is that they can be used as a flexible resource to cover peak times within a variety of functions. More importantly, at the end of the placement you will have well rounded individuals, who understand your culture and that have already integrated into your business. They would therefore be ideal candidates for any suitable permanent roles.

In an increasingly competitive environment, businesses will need to be creative and open-minded to ensure they can recruit a strong, diverse, and competent workforce. While much emphasis is often placed on securing high-profile senior candidates, the success of our market relies on our ability to recruit the top talent at junior levels. These young people will be the future of our market and that is why at Asta we are committed to offering an apprenticeship scheme.

Ann Bearwish

Ann Bearwish has worked in the HR team of Asta for over 20 years and was appointed HR Director in 2006.

Ann has a breadth of HR experience, advising Asta and a number of other managing agencies on all aspects of HR. This includes assisting start-ups with contracts and policy development, benefit structures as well as advising on employee relations issues, terminations and managing TUPE transfers.

Ann is a Chartered Member of the CIPD and a director of Asta Management Services Ltd.