As I write this, Lord Sugar is about to select another apprentice as his business partner in that most festive of modern Christmas traditions, The Apprentice final.

T’is the season to... conclude all of those reality TV shows by crowning a winner whilst supermarkets entertain us in the ad breaks with their latest 7 minute festive offering.

There are many detractors from the reality/business TV crossover genre that has given us Dragon’s Den, The Hotel Inspector and Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. However, one good thing has come out of the drive to create midweek event TV that can be watched by almost the whole family (maybe with the exception of the expletive laden rants of Mr Ramsey). It has re-habilitated the word ‘apprenticeship’.

‘Apprentice’ is now a word that can be associated with entrepreneurship, business and finance. For too long, many have seen an apprenticeship as a thing that someone does if they don’t go to university and reality TV, along with a significant shift in Government policy, is about to change all that.

For the financial planning profession, this change couldn’t come soon enough; we have a huge skills shortage and a woeful lack of succession planning that, if not addressed, could see the financial services profession decimated by it’s own demographic time bomb.

To address this, a group of employers from within the profession have been quietly developing a series of new apprenticeship standards under the Government’s Trailblazer programme. A Financial Adviser Apprenticeship is the latest of these and it joins a suite of apprenticeships that includes Financial Services Administrator, Mortgage Adviser, Paraplanner, and Compliance and Risk Officer.

These apprenticeships allow the employer access to funding that is used to pay for coaching, exam support and exam entry. The employer also has the opportunity to develop their existing workforce through apprenticeships, as the new standards are available to anyone up to the age of 64 and can be utilised to up-skill existing employees.

Given the high cost of university tuition fees and the reported narrowing gap between post-graduate lifetime earnings and the lifetime earnings achieved by those entering the workforce without a degree, the apprenticeship option is likely to become more attractive to school leavers than ever before.

The Government’s target of creating 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 is a huge opportunity for the financial planning profession to access the funding available and begin to address the recruitment challenges we have but more needs to be done to publicise this option.

Lord Sugar may have put apprenticeships on the map but, as a profession, we now need to capitalise on the opportunity to attract some of the country’s top talent to take up careers in the financial services.

About the author: Adam Owen is a member nominated Director of the Personal Finance Society and is a freelance learning and development specialist.

For more information on the Financial Adviser Apprenticeships visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-standard-financial-adviser-approved-for-delivery