Sandra Harvey Graham of the Insurance Institute of Ireland writes on why the recently expanded apprenticeship schemes represent an excellent opportunity for both jobseekers and industry.
“I can’t get a job without experience. But I can’t get experience without a job.”
Sound familiar? If you’re a graduate in Ireland or a first time jobseeker, the chances are you’ve said these words.
The difficulty for many employers is that graduates are coming out of university lacking key workplace skills necessary to hit the ground running. This is down to the fact that while most college courses teach technical and academic knowledge, students rarely learn the soft skills that are essential to career success.
For graduates, it’s more than disheartening to come out of college after four years and face the ‘at least 2 years’ experience’ criteria on every job spec – even for some entry level roles. Aside from highly competitive graduate programmes or unpaid internships, many graduates are faced with few options other than to take a job unrelated to their qualification. This is where apprenticeships come in.
What’s a professional apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes that combine academic teaching with valuable on-the-job experiential learning; combining technical and soft skills to create the perfect employee for organisations. When you hear ‘apprenticeship’, you probably think of a trade – for example a plumber or an electrician. However, in July 2015 the government announced the expansion of the current national apprenticeship scheme to extend beyond trades and into professional industries; one of which is insurance.
What does an insurance apprenticeship involve?
The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship is a three-year programme, where apprentices are recruited into an insurance organisation while working towards a level 8 degree – the BA in Insurance Practice, awarded by IT Sligo. This is the first apprenticeship in Ireland to offer a level 8 honours degree. The programme is delivered through a combination of online study with IT Sligo and The Insurance Institute, and on-the-job learning through an insurance employer. The degree portion of the programme is fully funded through the Apprenticeship Council and apprentices are also paid a salary by their employer.
As an apprentice you’ll develop technical insurance knowledge along with transferable workplace skills and competencies. Once you graduate, you’ll be business-ready and extremely employable in a range of sectors. Your employer will support you in your on-the-job learning, with regular one to one personal development sessions with an industry supervisor and mentor. Your mentor will also help you to settle into your role and into working life.
A huge variety of roles are available in the insurance industry including claims, risk management, underwriting, broking and loss adjusting. As an apprentice, you’ll work in one of the three core industry areas – underwriting, claims or direct client advice.
The nature of the programme means that you will learn about all areas of the business and you’ll complete projects and case studies to reinforce learning in the workplace. You will also earn the insurance industry’s benchmark professional qualification the Professional Diploma in Insurance, which means that by the end of your three years, you’ll be compliant to work in any area of general insurance – personal, commercial or private medical.
Who should apply for the apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships aren’t just for those who didn’t get enough leaving cert points for their preferred college course. Applicants include:
- School leavers who want to earn a level 8 degree without going down the university route. They want to launch their careers straight away while not missing out on the academic advantages of a college degree.
- Third level students who are questioning the relevancy of their current college course can undertake an apprenticeship without having to incur any extra cost of starting a brand new course.
- Graduates who want to further their education in the insurance and financial services sector, while gaining valuable workplace experience through a structured programme.
- Career changes who’ve worked in other industries and wish to start a career in insurance.
When will I start?
The first programme will begin in September this year, with employers beginning their recruitment drives in mid-June.
How do I apply?
Entry requirements include a minimum of 2 honours in the Leaving Cert or equivalent, with a pass in four additional subjects including Maths and English or Irish. If you’re over 23, interviews or other selection tools may be used to assess instead of these minimum requirements. Companies will recruit apprentices through their own processes, however The Insurance Institute will post details of who’s recruiting on their website iii.ie/apprenticeships. You can register your interest in hearing more about apprenticeships here too.
Sandra Harvey Graham is Apprenticeship Programme Manager with the Insurance Institute of Ireland