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Planting the seed of skill for the sector

This is a year likely to be marked by significant change for the financial services sector. The one thing that is certain is that the forthcoming challenges can only be surmounted by capitalising on the sector’s most valuable resource – its people. It is their skills, energy, dedication and creativity that drive the success of all businesses within the sector. The fuel they need is motivation, and the tools they require are the relevant technical skills needed for their roles.

Financial services is not the only sector currently undergoing a seismic shift. In education there are hugely significant debates underway both concerning what results we want to achieve and the means of getting there. One strand of this debate concerns ensuring our young people are “work ready” and employable at whichever stage of the educational system they decide to make the transition.

Employers are already driving the skills agenda in numerous and quite fundamental ways. Employers using the Financial Skills Partnership’s online careers portal, Directions, are connecting to thousands of young people at schools and colleges across the UK who have sought out its independent careers information and who are ready to take the next step to work experience.

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Major employers such as HSBC, which won an award last year for its pioneering work experience programme for 14- to 18-year-olds, are setting the trend here. However, smaller employers are equally able to offer such placements, starting to build relationships with their future talent by taking advantage of FSP’s SME membership, which offers tailored online support toolkits including one for work experience and internships.

The FSP will be piloting an even more ambitious project this April that will extend the benefit of work experience to a far greater number of employers and young people. The GetInGetOn project will provide virtual work experience through a specially created e-learning platform, offering eight interactive, highly engaging learning units to students and teachers across the UK. Additionally, for each student there will be four hours of e-mentoring with someone who works in the sector, who will have received special training.

An area in which employers really come into their own in helping to drive the skills agenda is that of apprenticeships.

The FSP has helped develop six apprenticeship frameworks that are currently being used by employers across the sector – with over 7000 apprenticeships in 2011/2012 in a range of disciplines – and will continue to support employers in this work.

The FSP’s new Graduate Foundation College is another great example of employers taking charge of the skills agenda. This is currently helping SME financial advisory employers in seven cities across the UK recruit suitable graduates by first providing the candidates with a concentrated ten-week pre-employment training course covering industry knowledge, supporting skills and the regulation and ethics module of an appropriate qualification.

The GFC course was set up with the support of major employers including Aviva, Just Retirement, Scottish Widows, Sesame Bankhall Group and Tenet, to help SME’s grow their businesses through skills.

In the wake of the efforts already made in this field, there is ample scope for further work this year to ensure that future generations have the skills they need to succeed and help our sector grow.