As we celebrate the first National Apprenticeship Week of the 2020s, it is worth noting that there are now more than 700 different apprenticeship standards, ranging from data scientists to cyber security technologists. Ten years ago, few had even heard of these roles, let alone considered them viable careers.
We should also consider how our lives have changed over the last decade. In the early 2010s, few thought we would take mobile data for granted, accessing information whenever and wherever we wanted on tablets, phones and watches. Even in our homes, smart assistants controlling heating and helping us figure out which TV shows to watch felt like a distant possibility.
In financial services, too, there have been significant changes in how our customers do their banking. The desire for instant connectivity and immediate results has seen the number of our customers who regularly use mobile channels for day to day banking go from zero to over 9 million in just seven years. In more complex areas such as mortgages, customers are using digital tools to achieve agreement in principle decisions in less than 15 minutes from the comfort of their sofa.
These changes in customer behaviour are happening all around us, and we need to adapt effectively. They mean workplace skills must evolve too. At Lloyds Banking Group, demand in emerging growth areas such as data analysis, cyber security and applied sciences has led us to increase our investment in colleague training hours by 50 per cent – more than 4.4m hours.
As well as addressing skills gaps at the bank, this allows colleagues to focus on bringing their best to their existing role, as well as preparing the ground for exciting new and emerging career paths.
Apprenticeships are a vital part of this transformation. Lloyds Banking Group offers more than 25 apprenticeship programmes ranging from Level 2 (an entry-level equivalent to five GCSEs) to Level 7 (senior leaders and specialists equivalent to a Master’s degree). We believe apprenticeships are for everyone, regardless of age, seniority, location, career journey or working pattern. Improving the diversity of our teams remains a critical focus for Lloyds Banking Group as we build a business that reflects the variety of the customers and communities that we serve.
We are seeing encouraging progress in the diversity of the 2,500 apprentices that have enrolled with us in the past two years, but we must pursue inclusivity relentlessly at all levels to inspire people from different backgrounds to make the most of their skills. These efforts have created profound benefits for individual colleagues. Take Sabreen, for example, who left school with few qualifications. Now in the second year of a Digital Technology Apprenticeship, she is excelling in her studies and shares her experiences with other young Asian women so they are able to see the life-changing opportunities that apprenticeships can bring.
We are proud to have been recognised by the Institute for Student Employers for our apprenticeship strategy; at the National Apprenticeship Awards for our recruitment practice; and at the Asian Apprenticeship Awards for our work in developing BAME apprentices.
However, we also recognise that we have a responsibility to use our deep experience to help other employers step into apprenticeships. One way we do this is through the apprenticeship levy transfer. Lloyds Banking Group is one of the largest contributors to the apprenticeship levy and has partnered with the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Advanced Manufacturing and Training Centre in Coventry to commit £9m of our levy funds over three years to supporting smaller businesses in the training and development of apprentices.
This initiative started in 2019 and we have already supported 90 small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and 120 apprentices to develop high-demand, high-complexity science, technology, engineering, manufacturing and digital skills. SMEs account for 60 per cent of total employment in the UK, and we believe we have a responsibility to help them prosper by accessing the skills they need.
One business we have supported through this initiative is Jamieson Contracting. With rising demand, Jamieson, like many businesses in the construction sector, has struggled to recruit talent with the right skills needed to sustain business growth.
Apprenticeship levy funding has helped managing director Andy Jamieson take on Chaya Wheeler, who has just started a five-year apprenticeship as a chartered surveyor. With a gender imbalance in construction, with only 14 per cent of roles being held by females, Jamieson has been thrilled to be able to hire a talented individual to join his team and bring new perspectives to this growing company.
It is not just through the levy transfer that we help British skills prosper. Across Lloyds, our colleagues are also proud of the way they can share their expertise, offering more than 26,000 volunteering hours to help others learn and develop their skills.
Charities, social enterprises and small businesses have benefitted from the establishment of digital academies in major cities. Initiatives such as Code Club and Rediscover Project are helping young people in primary and secondary schools develop both an interest and excitement in digital careers.
We may not be able to predict what the jobs of 2030 will look like but we do know, with certainty, that investing in our own skills, and those of others, is a fundamental step in preparing for what lies ahead. Apprenticeships, in their many forms, designed to meet the needs of that workforce of the future, will be a crucial part of meeting that challenge.
Jen Tippin is group director, people and productivity, at Lloyds Banking Group.