Sophie Gray, Aviva’s UK Apprenticeship Lead, spoke with us about the changing landscape of apprenticeships, challenging perceptions, and how Aviva are utilising their apprenticeship levy.
“At Aviva we see talent as a really important thing. For us, apprenticeships aren’t just for new recruitment into our business. It’s a blend of developing new talent and supporting our existing talent to allow them to move around our business fluidly and flexibly. What we have found from our apprenticeships is that we get new ideas, fresh outlooks and different perspectives.”
Since the introduction of the levy, many companies have seen a shift in the way they think about apprenticeships. How have you seen attitudes change recently?
“We’ve had to dispel a number of myths around what apprenticeships are, and what they aren’t, because there have been some substantial shifts. In the past, people have thought that apprenticeships are just for young people and that they’re just for manual labour type roles, so we’ve done a lot around educating that they’re for everyone and cover a wide range of disciplines. I think the attitude to apprenticeships from businesses still needs some work because there is a still a perception that an apprentice should be paid less money than someone else who is doing the same job. We’re trying to shift opinion and help people see that apprenticeships should be viewed not just as an alternative solution to university, but an aspirational alternative.”
How have apprenticeships affected Aviva’s company culture?
“We’ve taken on roughly 93 apprentices in the last year. Before we started paying the levy, the average age of apprentices was 19; now that average age has shifted up to 26. Apprenticeships are changing the dynamic of our workforce and the levy has shown that they aren’t just for school leavers, they are for everyone. Internally we’ve got people who are moving around, looking to change their careers, and apprenticeships are ideal for that. That’s probably where we see the age demographic shifting, but that said, we have recruited some older apprentices as well, which is very exciting. Our oldest apprentice is 52.”
The levy has not been without criticism, and some companies have taken a while to adjust to the changes. Do you think the levy is working for Aviva?
“The apprenticeship levy has given us a fresh focus on building skills. In the past, we have done some great professional development, but the levy has definitely given us a renewed focus by us identifying a ring-fenced learning and development budget on a scale that we’ve never really seen in the past. I’m very pleased that everyone at Aviva is encouraging of development and therefore we’ve decided to use it rather than lose it.”
As well as a shift in attitudes, apprenticeships themselves are changing. What are your opinions on the new apprenticeship standards?
“What we’re finding now is that apprenticeship standards are much more specific and help people hone in a pure skill development that the frameworks didn’t necessarily do in the past, so that is certainly beneficial to us. When the levy was implemented, we had to make strategic choices about how we manage apprenticeships. We knew that we wanted to trial apprenticeship standards in a couple of business areas and one of those was IT and software developers.”
What made you chose Baltic to deliver these apprenticeships?
“We chose Baltic because the company values are very similar to our own, and the learning methodology mirrors our own desires and agenda. Baltic’s Online Live enables us to do a lot of learning online and gives a good blended learning solution which is a benefit that our businesses absolutely see.”
What has your experience working with Baltic been like so far?
“There are two main things I’ve been really impressed with:
The first is the appetite for Baltic to do more with Aviva. There is never a conversation that is ‘no we can’t’ – there is always a ‘let’s figure it out together’, which is collaborative and absolutely what Aviva aspire to in our partnerships.
The second is our relationship manager, Binny, who has been absolutely brilliant and on the ball. In comparison to a number of our training providers who don’t offer that relationship management service, I think it really sets Baltic apart from the rest.”
Like Baltic, we know that Aviva are committed to promoting diversity in tech. How have you been implementing this within the business?
“At Aviva, we have a huge focus of doing good things for our good people. One of those areas of focus is on the inclusivity agenda, so ensuring that we focus on gender pay in a positive way, focus on people being represented across all walks of our commercial world in all types of roles, and therefore there is an absolute focus on making sure that we’re supporting women doing roles they aren’t typically associated with doing. When we think about our recruitment opportunities there is always one eye on how many women are applying for these roles and how many women are successful in achieving these roles, and how we can showcase them and propel them through their careers.”
If you would like to find out more about what Aviva and Baltic are doing to encourage more women into the tech industry, you can watch our video featuring front end developer Freya MacLachlan here.
You can visit Aviva’s website here.