‘Some of these funding that is designed to be used for training that our country needs is not being used and widening the levy rules would help make that happen,’ says public affairs officer 

Biba has requested for the UK government to amend its current apprenticeship levy system so that “barriers,” which are causing a “burden” on the system’s uptake in insurance broking, can be eased.

The broker body’s 2024 Manifesto: Managing risk for growth and economic security, published last week (10 January 2024), said the suggested amendment could also “ensure levy funds are fully used by businesses” as “more than £3.3m of unspent levy funding was returned to the Treasury over three years from 2019”.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Biba’s public affairs officer Beverly Robbins said Biba has an “issue” with the unspent funds as “some of the funding that is designed to be used for training that our country needs is not being used and widening the levy rules would help make that happen”.

The UK government’s apprenticeships levy came into effect on 6 April 2017 after then chancellor George Osborne proposed it in the 2015 budget.

It is a form of taxation paid by employers that is designed to help businesses offer more training and apprenticeship programmes through the form of a fund.

In terms of barriers that Biba wishes to be addressed, the broker body acknowledged that apprenticeships are available to ages across the board.

However, Robbins said that “these are often too inflexible” for those who require “smaller chunks of targeted and specific training” as opposed to longer-term programmes – whether that’s because of “personal learning styles or family circumstances”.

And, in Scotland, “no one aged 25 or older can access apprenticeships through the levy funding system, which impacts the opportunity to recruit and train workers of all ages” needed in the insurance sector.

There is also an “additional barrier for worker specifically in the requirement for qualifications in both maths and English”.

Biba further noted the “extra administrative burden on running apprenticeships is more onerous for SMEs” and, as every insurance broking business has a “unique and diverse need for technical and non-technical skills based on it’s business model”, a “more flexible approach that includes wider skills could reduce barriers” to businesses using the system to “train new and existing staff, particularly amongst SMEs”.

“The need for new skills and talent is the reason why the Government needs to reform the Apprenticeships Levy to be more agile, future-focused and flexible,” Zurich head of retail David Nichols said.

“It is vital that we attract new, diverse talent to the sector, with fresh ideas about how the insurance sector can best serve our customers.

“That is why we support Biba’s work in supporting the attracting, recruitment, retention and professional development of brokers.”

‘Ensuring consumer trust’

Considering its own work attracting talent in 2024, Biba has committed to work with two schools in Tower Hamlets to raise awareness of career opportunities in insurance across “underprivileged areas that would not usually have access or knowledge to, or of, the insurance industry”.

The schools were matched with Biba by the Careers and Enterprise company, which took into consideration the number of students eligible for free school meals as well as young people not in education, employment or training.

Biba said it was keen to target awareness amongst people aged 16 to 19, as research for its manifesto, conducted by Consumer Intelligence, showed that 36% of 18 to 25-year-olds surveyed who do not work in the industry have considered a career in insurance.

Two thirds of the age group surveyed already working in the insurance industry, furthermore, expressed a “strong desire to work within and pursue a career in insurance”.

The broker body has therefore released a new “important project” to gather “interest in coming to work in the insurance sector” in the form of a social media campaign, said Biba chief executive Graeme Trudgill – the campaign was made live on the day of the manifesto launch.

In view of education and training, Biba said it supports the CII’s online learning tool Broker Assess, which includes continuing professional development (CPD) and aims to help brokers meet their regulatory requirements.

“Professional development is vital to ensuring consumer trust in financial services,” said CII group chair Helen Phillips.

“I am pleased to work with Biba to promote learning and development and to see that many young people working in insurance are engaged with the opportunities to gain internationally recognised professional qualifications through the CII.”