ABI and Davies: Future-proofing talent with apprenticeships

On November 23rd, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) held an insightful event for its members focused on “Future-proofing talent strategies with apprenticeship funding.” As an advocacy group representing the UK insurance sector, the ABI had experts from the Davies Group on hand as featured speakers and panellists. This event tied into a comprehensive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Blueprint the ABI recently published.

As described by ABI’s Liisa Antola when introducing the event, the Blueprint lays out “clear steps for making the insurance and long-term savings sector the most diverse, equitable and inclusive industry in the UK.”

Specifically, the wide-ranging strategy examines factors such as “talent attraction and retention, building welcoming and inclusive workplace cultures, gathering quality diversity data, and leveraging that information to inform organisational strategy.”

Widening talent gaps pose strategic concerns

Within the ABI’s broader strategy, one of primary focuses is encouraging member firms to hire more apprenticeships – this comes with a motivation to improve social mobility within the sector.

As such, the ABI collects apprenticeship data to track progress on their pledge to double the total number of apprentices hired industry-wide by 2025. However, since making this pledge, Liisa noted the industry has experienced “a concerning decline in the number of apprentices onboarded.”

She stressed that exploring barriers through open and transparent discussion, as well as understanding the opportune areas that lay ahead, remain the key to unlocking the potential and value that apprenticeship can bring to the UK insurance industry.

Apprenticeship Landscape Briefing – Craig Potter

Craig Potter, VP of Professional Education at Davies Group, provided critical insights on navigating the complex apprenticeship funding landscape to future proof talent management strategy.

He analysed the political environment’s impact – from autumn budget changes to proposals in parties’ 2024 election manifestos on system flexibility and devolved authority. Craig also unpacked looming funding model uncertainty – highlighting issues like wage levels remaining “static since 2017, while inflation has significantly increased delivery costs”. This poses sustainability issues for training providers.

Outlining limitations on using levy funds for reskilling and workforce transitions, he emphasised the need for greater system flexibility and regional funding consistency. With over 85% of Davies Group’s apprentices in insurance, Craig advised focusing strategy on sector-specific productivity opportunities rather than viewing programmes as a box-ticking exercise.

As such, rather than merely spending the levy, programmes should align to solving organisational talent gaps and driving performance. Questions like – “How does expanding schemes boost productivity in key divisions?” and “What tangible benefits result from early talent investments?” should shape organisational approach.

Craig concluded that apprenticing training must directly accelerate careers while increasing diversity. By revealing the complex dynamics employers now face, his insights equipped attendees to tailor strategic, high-impact investments in emerging insurance talent.

Talent Management Approach – Carolyn Blunt

Carolyn Blunt, VP of Davies Academy, outlined the urgent retention risks facing insurance. She cited statistics including:

  • 30% of sector talent retiring within 10 years
  • 80% of employers have reported struggling with talent gaps
  • Increased resignations amongst women for family/health reasons
  • 77% of older employees departing roles earlier due to the pandemic

This “brain drain” threatens sector collaboration and innovation capacity. As Carolyn cautioned, “if we don’t start to address that now, it is going to become a real problem”.

Carolyn then introduced the Davies Academy Model as a solution to help overcome these challenges. By hiring and deploying apprentices for 12-15 months, firms access diverse talent that completes accredited training, with Davies funding levy costs and handling payroll, sick pay, etc. The model aims to transition apprentices into client firms after assignment completion.

Outlining benefits, Carolyn explained that Davies apprenticeship approach functions like the  “world’s longest job interview” – with apprentices working towards a permanent role at the end. Apprentices can move into full time roles with employers without any extra costs incurred.

Flexi-job apprenticeships

Carolyn Blunt explained the new government policy around flexible apprenticeships, where the government issues 30 licences to training providers, of which Davies was one.

“This licence gives us the ability to flex an apprenticeship between different employers. This helps boost retention and keep people on the programme. The way that we make this work is that you don’t employ the apprentice, Davies does. We use our levy, and you can take these apprentices on board for, let’s say 12 or 18 months. At the same time, the apprentices continue to do training with Davies,” explained Carolyn.

Davies also complements work placements with proactive outreach to engage diverse talent pools earlier. Initiatives like school workshops and bootcamps feed the academy pipeline. As Carolyn noted, “we definitely want to think about how we engage with that diverse talent really early on”.

She concluded that collective action must address experience gaps COVID-19 accelerated. Carolyn advocated the academy model for its combination of access, rigour and flexibility in developing tomorrow’s insurance leaders at the pace required.

Panel Discussion Highlights

The panel discussion brought together diverse expertise from Davies, with Victoria Miles (Consulting Director) and Jude Pilcher (Client Success Director) joining speakers Craig Potter and Carolyn Blunt, mediated by Liisa Antola. Some of the key points discussed include:

Fair Wage Levels

The panel debated apprenticeship wage levels following a question from the audience, arguing they should align with averages to aid social mobility. Jude explained the importance of “paying someone the right wage for doing a job. We should be paying a good wage for apprentices in our sector, above the minimum apprentice rate”

Carolyn Blunt added to this point, saying that low wages hamper social mobility. “If wages are low, that means apprentices must have a supportive family unit around to fund them during the apprenticeship, which alienates a significant percentage of the potential talent pool.”

Effective Utilisation of Levy Gifting

An audience member asked about the levy gifting process, and how it functions. In response, Victoria Miles explained, “the gifting, in essence, is relatively simple. But you do need to have a think about how you are going to set it up and what organisations you are going to gift your levy to. As an example, we have helped facilitate clients’ gifting schemes to grow skill levels across broker networks. Behind the scenes, employers formally agree on gifting amounts. The recipient broker then receives a digital credit to pay for training delivery.”

Key components that Davies can assist with include:

  • Defining recipient partners aligned to business priorities
  • Handling digital account transactions
  • Structuring opportunities suited to giftees’ needs (i.e. ensuring sufficient placement volumes/standards)
  • Orchestrating contractual aspects (can be especially beneficial for SME recipients unaccustomed to paperwork)

Manager Engagement

The panel highlighted how crucial line manager support and buy-in is for ensuring apprentice success. They talked about how managers should actively guide training in ways supporting workplace culture and business goals. Rather than an extra to-do, panellists encouraged seeing apprentice supervision as a chance to target skills building where it’s really needed across the organisation.

From making sure dedicated learning time is protected, to tracking progress and showing higher-ups the strategic benefits, the discussion brought up practical steps managers and executives alike can take to get the most impact out of these programmes. Whether it’s through hands-on mentoring or backing from the top, the more fully and closely leaders at all levels engage with apprentice integration, the bigger the payoff for productivity.

Get In Touch

There’s clearly an urgent need for insurance firms to start investing in the next generation of talent before major retention issues hit home. The good news is that apprenticeships offer a flexible, proven way to build the skilled and diverse workforce you’ll need to stay competitive.

Davies can help take the hassle out of programme development – whether it’s navigating political red tape, structuring impactful opportunities that align to your needs, or handling levy gifting.

The clock’s ticking, but the solutions are out there. Get in touch with our team and let’s talk about how customised apprenticeships could strengthen your talent pipeline for the future.

Craig Potter

VP - Professional Education

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