The debt advice apprenticeship, the first-of-its-kind in the UK, has been approved by the Institute of Apprenticeships. The first cohort of advisors will start to study under the new apprenticeship, which will grant them a level 3 qualification, in April 2020.

The apprenticeship has been led by a ‘trailblazer group’ from across the debt advice sector. Members of the group include Gregory Pennington, StepChange Debt Charity, Christians Against Poverty and PayPlan,

The new apprenticeship covers all areas of debt advice including developing a budget, supporting and signposting customers with vulnerabilities, income maximisation, debt solutions in all jurisdictions and conduct requirements.

The qualification has a rigorous three-part assessment: it is the first apprenticeship scheme to include a simulated advice session, to ensure that advisors are able to demonstrate skills such as empathy and active listening. Candidates will also take a closed book multiple choice question test and have a professional discussion with the independent assessment body, underpinned by a portfolio of work created by the apprentice. Throughout the process the apprentice must demonstrate all the knowledge, skills and behaviours required and a competence of the duties required for the role.

Organisations that contribute to the apprenticeship levy can draw on those funds to pay for the qualification. Organisations and charities that do not have to contribute to the levy will benefit from 95% of the cost being met by the government.

Sebrina McCullough, Head of External Relations at Gregory Pennington, who chairs the trailblazer group, said “Debt advice is currently the only area of financial advice that does not have a minimum certified qualification or a threshold level standard. The introduction of this apprenticeship will fill that gap. Our aim is both to raise standards and consistency across the sector and position debt advice as an attractive professional career.”

“It’s fantastic to see the sector come together to create this new apprenticeship and qualification. This is just the first step – the trailblazer group is already considering a recognised professional body for debt advisers and developing a Continuing Professional Development scheme with the potential to develop higher level qualifications in future too.”