by Trevor Hemsley, May 2014
Most insurance personnel will tell you that they drifted into the field rather than targeting it by choice. After all, insurance never used to get mentioned by careers masters and hasn’t enjoyed a glamorous image. But the tide is definitely beginning to turn.
Younger people are starting to appreciate that the industry can offer many of the advantages of supposedly ‘sexier’ careers and, in particular, apprenticeships are appealing to those questioning the wisdom of leaving university with huge debts and often without a job to go to.
According to the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), 850 technical apprenticeships were started in the insurance industry in 2013, and the Treasury has committed to doubling the number in the next five years.
RSA head of talent and resourcing Amanda Birkett says: “Four years ago when we started apprentice schemes we were having to force schools to listen to us because they were pushing universities. Now they are contacting us and saying: ‘Please come and talk to our sixth formers’.”
Other insurers are also stepping up their initiatives to attract young people.
Zurich, for example, is starting an apprenticeship scheme this year. It offers both graduate and work experience schemes along with internships – typically of eight to 12 weeks – and six-month placements for undergraduates. It has also launched a young workers initiative to help unemployed people gain new skills.
Zurich Commercial Broker learning and development manager Richard Smith says: “I’ve learned something new every single day in my 27-year career and have never had a boring day. When I tell this to young people they hang on to every word.”
But the CII says the industry still faces a challenge to change perceptions of insurance among school leavers and graduates. CII relationship manager Caspar Bartington says: “People have a misconception that [insurance] is all done online or over the phone, but it’s a people business and it’s who you are not what you’ve learned that gets you the job. You can have a degree in literally any subject. The global nature of the industry is especially appealing, and students are particularly interested in the focus on environmental risk and
Through its Discover Risk campaign, the CII promotes a website aimed at 14 to 21-year-olds and has been involved in engaging university students through presentations and school pupils using board games. It has also joined forces with the ABI, Biba and brokers to back the national employer-led Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme.
Other major industry-wide initiatives include the founding of the Graduate Insurance Network in 2011 to provide young people with the platform to develop careers and business networks through social and formal events, and the signing of a partnership in May 2013 between Biba and the Department for Work and Pensions to create a structured route to employment.
Graduate Insurance Network founder Jake Hickinbottom, who is a development underwriter at Allianz, says: “It’s about trying to create a pool of talent in the market rather than wait for them to come to us as a fall-back position. Where previous such efforts have probably gone wrong is that they have been unable to relate to young people and talk to them on their level.”