The financial advice industry has welcomed the government's decision to bring forward its £700m package of apprenticeship reforms to April, after initially announcing the changes in last year’s Autumn Budget.
Delivering his Spring Statement in the House of Commons earlier today (March 13) Philip Hammond MP said changes to the funding of apprenticeships would now take effect at the start of the new financial year in April, to help small businesses take on more apprentices.
Mr Hammond said the government was committed to returning technological and vocational skills to the "heart of the educational system".
Keith Richards, chief executive of the Personal Finance Society, applauded the move, saying there was both a need and demand for succession in the financial advice profession to meet future demand for advice.
Mr Richards said it was this demand which led the society to launch its own apprenticeship training programme in early 2017, called PFS Aspire, which saw more than 300 advice firms register their interest in the first week.
He said: "Recently the programme saw the first apprentices receiving their diploma after 18 months of structured learning, along with the programme’s first distinction honours graduate.
"Apprenticeships are a win-win for the employer and the employee and for the future of the profession, they are a valuable route in enabling new talent from all walks of life to gain on-the-job learning in personal finance.
"Therefore, we applaud the government’s investment in apprenticeships as an investment in the next generation of financial planners, who will play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges posed by the largest intergenerational wealth gap since records began - as well as ensuring that the advice gap doesn’t widen."
In last year’s Budget the government announced it will provide up to £240m to halve the co-investment rate employers must currently pay for apprenticeship training to 5 per cent.
It also pledged to make up to £450m available to enable levy paying employers to transfer up to 25 per cent of their funds to pay for apprenticeship training in their supply chains.
Up to £5m was also pledged to the Institute for Apprenticeships and National Apprenticeship Service for 2019/20, to identify gaps in the training provider market and increase the number of employer-designed apprenticeship standards available to employers.
Garry Heath, director general of adviser trade body Libertatum, said any measures to help the funding of apprenticeships was "good news" but more could be done to make apprenticeships more inclusive.
He said: "We already have the money there, waiting to be used, but the trouble is setting up the body to receive and manage it to help smaller companies train personnel too.
"The problem with most apprenticeship schemes is you have to be of a certain size to use it and small businesses may miss out.
"The advice industry will begin losing significant numbers to retirement in the next few years and while there are one or two academies working towards filling the growing adviser gap, they tend to work for a network and we need something that will cover the whole industry."