Aviva has levy-funded 427 apprentices since 2017, with 79 qualifying in 2019

Happy thoughtful young businesswoman with digital tablet in hand smiling and looking away in front of colleague at background

The apprenticeship levy is a tax on UK employers with a wage bill of more than £3m that can be reclaimed to fund apprenticeship training (Credit: Aviva)

Many large businesses pay the apprenticeship levy – but some treat it like any other tax, writing it off. Aviva’s apprenticeship lead Sophie Gray explains how the company has instead used it for its intended purpose.


An apprentice is a permanent employee, following a training scheme to help them build role-related skills. These schemes map against our UK education system, giving a depth of qualification from GSCE to master’s equivalent.

At Aviva, our apprentices reflect the broad range of skills we need to thrive as a business. These might be in finance, data, digital, or leadership roles, managing a small team or department or even managing whole business area.

In 2017, Aviva started to pay the apprenticeship levy to the government.

This a mandatory tax for employers with a pay bill of more than £3m that’s paid to the government through the PAYE system, whether they employ an apprentice or not.

Employers can use their levy funds to cover the cost of any apprenticeship training. According to government figures, more than 814,000 people participated in an apprenticeship in England in 2017/2018, with 375,800 apprenticeship starts and 276,200 apprenticeship achievements.


How do apprenticeships benefit business?

Aviva has levy-funded 427 apprentices since 2017 with 79 qualifying in 2019.

Once qualified, apprentices can choose to stay in their role if they’re happy with their qualification, or do the next level of qualification to deepen their knowledge – whether that’s in insurance or in leadership.

Some apprentices who have qualified in data analysis have enrolled in data science degree apprenticeships, for example.

So what benefits does that bring to us as an organisation? Developing future capability, for one thing.

We are renowned for our underwriting capability and having the fundamentals it takes to run finance business, but there are new areas of skill (such as digital skills) that we need to equip ourselves with. Apprenticeships are helping us with this.

Two-thirds of our apprentices are existing employees who are looking to deepen a skill or develop an existing area – that’s how our programme has evolved.

Most business areas started out thinking they would use apprenticeships to attract new talent to entry-level roles, but the diversity of apprenticeship schemes means we can be more inclusive for people from all sorts of demographics – be it school leavers, people returning to work, or people reinventing their careers at Aviva.

We’ve found that this makes for more engaged and dedicated employees – and the skills they develop are extremely valuable to us.


How apprenticeships benefit existing and prospective employees

We have some strong connections with schools and education facilities. In Norwich, we’re a Cornerstone employer.

That means we encourage and support students having good connections with us as a big business and do what we can to provide encounters for students with the world of work.

This has included work taster sessions, work experience, internships and hosted hackathons with local schools to help them be actively involved in real scenario problem solving.

With these experiences we help people see that there are all sorts of routes to the world of work – it’s not that definitive.

There’s definitely been a misconception that apprenticeships are for young people, and more specifically, young men.

We’re delighted to be inclusive with the age range of our apprentices now being 18-67.

We do have to constantly educate, but the numbers speak for themselves. It’s a work in progress.

Apprenticeships also foster social mobility. Many of the surrounding towns in Norfolk are coastal towns that have fewer links to long term, highly paid employment.

Reaching out to those schools can help us attract a new demographic of employees, which is mutually beneficial.

We also have schemes like the Women in Tech programme, which helps individuals realise their potential, and gain the confidence to grow in a usually male-dominated business area.

We understand the importance of showing people that anything is within their reach – there should be no barriers.

In fact our very first qualifying apprentice with a distinction in software development was a woman who has now gone onto working on the Women in Tech programme to help lead the initiative.

Companies don’t have to take advantage of the apprenticeship levy, but we’ve found that apprentices hugely support the skills development we need to equip ourselves for the future world of work.


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This is a sponsored post by our partner Aviva