Helping young people grow and develop their careers is a responsibility I believe falls to us all. The recent National Apprenticeship Week, offered an opportunity to not only promote the option of apprenticeships to young people and employers, but also to celebrate the positive impact these schemes have already achieved.
While apprenticeships have been a huge success for many industries, the world of financial advice is yet to yield the benefits of apprenticeships on a large scale. I am an enthusiastic advocate of the great value apprenticeships can offer to both employer and employee; indeed at SimplyBiz, around 7 per cent of staff are apprentices, and many others who started in these schemes have now moved on to permanent employment with us.
My team also exhibits at apprenticeship fairs to encourage young people to consider financial advice as a career option; an activity which I wholeheartedly recommend to any of you who have the opportunity to attend.
The biggest obstacle we encounter is an initial lack of understanding from young people about what the role of financial adviser entails, with many telling us that “maths is boring” and that puts them off.
Without exception, when we have more detailed conversations with these potential apprentices and tell them more about the rich variety of the role of an adviser, about the necessity of building and sustaining strong relationships, the importance of taking a holistic view of the life of an individual or family and helping them to plan and realise their goals and, vitally, the difference that they can make to the lives of their clients, the apprentices feel very differently. Personally, I have always felt that the role of an adviser is more akin to the social services than, say, banking.
This is why I was personally and professionally delighted to see the recent announcement that the NMBA Apprenticeship Programme has become a reality, with its first apprentices starting at the beginning of April. Although the process to reach this stage has been arduous and occasionally quite infuriating, I feel that we now have a real opportunity to not only start to recruit the new blood that the industry so desperately needs, but also to begin to celebrate – loudly and with pride – the wonderful and valuable profession in which we work.
Ken Davy is group chairman of SimplyBiz