2022 marks the seventh year of the Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship – since its inception the programme has created 286 jobs, it has also led to an influx of new talent and in turn has revitalised and modernised the insurance industry.

The programme has helped to shift not only misconceptions of apprenticeships but also of the insurance sector in general – there is now growing recognition of the opportunities a career in insurance present, and it is being recognised for the dynamic and innovative industry it is.

The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship provides both apprentices and employers with a completely unique opportunity – apprentices have the chance to gain the CIP or QFA and a BA Hons in Insurance Practice, whilst earning a salary and gaining real work experience. Employers have the opportunity to recruit a highly motivated and career driven employee who they can rest assured is at the forefront of their professional development.

In the fast-paced world of the insurance sector having employees with an aptitude to learn is essential and the apprenticeship provides employers with the chance to find the right candidate to suit their business. The apprenticeship was developed for the industry by the industry – meaning that it was set up to respond to the current issues, needs and skills gaps presented by the insurance sector.

The programme is constantly evolving and an Apprenticeship Steering Committee (consisting of leaders within the insurance sector, apprentices, insurance employers, representatives from IT Sligo, LIA, The Insurance Institute, Brokers Ireland and Insurance Ireland) regularly reviews the programme, its delivery and the syllabus to ensure it is always meeting the highest possible standards and that it’s ahead of the curve in terms of its content.

Involvement in the programme guarantees that insurance employers are fit for the future and ensures that they remain competitive by having a highly skilled workforce in place. We caught up with two apprentice employers to get more insight into their experience of the programme, what appealed to them about the apprenticeship and to understand the main advantages to their business to date.

We spoke with two employers from across the General and Life Insurance market – Jessica Dooley, HR Advisor at AIG and Ivor Bowden, Founder and Owner, Prudent Financial and Prudent Environmental Investments. Both AIG and Prudent Financial were recently shortlisted as nominees for The Generation Apprenticeship Employer of the Year Awards 2021. The awards, which are championed by SOLAS, the Government body with responsibility for apprenticeships, aim to showcase and recognise the talent and energy of Ireland’s thriving apprenticeship employer sector.

Jessica Dooley, HR Advisor, AIG

What factors were behind your decision to take on an apprentice?

At AIG, we believe in supporting the next generation of global leaders. As we already had a Graduate programme in place for General Insurance, we wanted to explore areas in which we could increase our Early Career programmes.

There were several factors behind our decision to take on apprentices, firstly we wanted to take advantage of the thriving employment market, we wanted to increase the volume of new talent coming into our organisation, which supports building our internal talent pipeline and lastly, we wanted to encourage the development of current staff who act as mentors/ supervisors to the apprentices.

Was the award level (i.e. Level 8 degree) a factor in your decision making?

Yes, the award level certainly was a factor in our decision – in particular because our sector is regulated. The fact that the apprentices gain a third-level qualification, as well as professional qualifications, while progressing with on-the-job learning is terrific.

  • In year one our apprentices become APA qualified
  • Year two CIP qualified and finally in
  • Year three with their BA (Hons) in Insurance Practice.

How long have you been involved in the programme?

AIG in Ireland has been involved in the Apprenticeship Programme for two years. We’ve hired a total of ten apprentices during that time (five in 2020 and five in 2021).

What supports were available to you from The Insurance Institute at the time of recruitment?

The Insurance Institute has been a brilliant partner from the start. The team at the Institute have always been available to offer advice on the programme/ guidelines and give support every step of the way, including guidance in respect of our application to SOLAS.

The Insurance Institute also run sessions for mentors and supervisors so they can fully understand their responsibilities. Once an apprentice joins, there are also regular touch points with The Insurance Institute on the progress of the programme and on the apprentice’s development.

What do you feel are the main three advantages your apprentices have brought to your business?

The three main advantages could be summarised as follows:

  1. The apprenticeship enables us to build a strong talent pipeline.
  2. It allows us to further diversify our workforce.
  3. Provides us with the opportunity to gain fresh perspectives and innovation.

In your opinion, how relevant is the education programme (both professional and business modules) to day-to-day activities in the business?

The educational aspect is extremely relevant and useful for the day-to-day activities of the apprentices in AIG. It allows the apprentices to gain extremely relevant knowledge and through their course work, in the various insurance modules, they can apply what they have learned in real life scenarios, with on-the-job learning.

The educational side of the programme means that apprentices have the opportunity to develop their insurance expertise while also improving their written and oral communication, presentation skills and of course organisational and time management.

Are you considering hiring further apprentices?

Yes, AIG is committed to The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship. We are aiming to continue hiring in this area to further build on this invaluable talent pipeline over the coming years.

What advice do you have for anyone considering hiring an apprentice?

Deciding to participate in the Apprenticeship Programme has been wonderful for us in AIG Ireland. It aligns with our desire to support the next generation of leaders. The programme lends itself to having access to different candidates from various areas and stages of life and with that brings a different perspective and further strengthens our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

This diversification, coupled with the programme’s academic course work, as well as on-thejob learning, means that we have a great talent pipeline in place to further support our business.

It is also a great way of contributing to the personal development of our existing team as they have the opportunity to manage or mentor an apprentice over the course of the threeyear placement and this allows them to build on their leadership and management skillset.

Ivor Bowden, Founder and Owner, Prudent Financial and Prudent Environmental Investments

What factors were behind your decision to take on an apprentice?

I needed a new staff member, and I was looking for a candidate who had a willingness to pursue the required education standards for the industry, as this is critical to interacting with clients. My business is small and at that time it was in, what you might call, a ‘start up’ phase, therefore I didn’t have a budget to hire someone with a lot of experience. I was, however, willing to invest time in training whoever joined me.

Was the award level (i.e. Level 8 degree) a factor in your decision making?

Yes, it was. Leanne Salmon (our apprentice) already had a degree in journalism, but she was keen to change direction. With minimum education standards a regulatory requirement for dealing directly with clients, it meant I had to hire someone committed to this process to be able to move Prudent forward.

How long have you been involved in the programme? Since September 2019 – Leanne is our first apprentice.

What supports were available to you from LIA at the time of recruitment?

The apprenticeship route was a relatively new offering from LIA when I took on Leanne. They were enthusiastic for employers to sign up and were extremely supportive to me in preparing and presenting my ad and were always there in the background to help me with any queries or issues, especially in the early days.

What do you feel are the main advantages your apprentice Leanne has brought to your business?

Leanne is very capable at working on her own initiative and regularly sees things that need to be actioned,u sing her own autonomy to do so, for example writing some blogs, screening some new clients and making suggestions before I meet them, chasing pipeline and more besides.

She is enthusiastic and likes to be involved in new projects or challenges in the business. Being in her twenties, Leanne offers a different perspective to mine when considering our approach to certain challenges or campaigns which is something I really value. It is important for Prudent to continue to build its younger client base; if they are all my own age, the business will fizzle out at some stage.

Leanne contributes in terms of how we approach a younger generation that helps to ensure the age range of the client base is well spread.

In your opinion, how relevant is the education programme (both QFA and business modules) to day-to-day activities in the business?

The education programme is extremely relevant and current – on more than one occasion Leanne has been able to answer something more speedily than me because she had covered the topic more recently. (Although, I’m not sure I should admit that!)

Would you recommend the programme to fellow brokers?

Without hesitation, I would recommend the apprenticeship route to other brokers. It’s such a fantastic opportunity to bring a fresh member of staff into your organisation who will naturally bring a new way of looking at things – particularly if they haven’t worked in the industry before.

Also, your candidate is committed to you for 3 years, assuming you both get along well. This offers the employer quite a bit of reassurance that this new staff member will remain with the company for a while and learn the ropes within your business.

What advice do you have for anyone considering hiring an apprentice?

Just do it! It’s important to carefully consider what role(s) you want filled within the business. The more specific you can be in terms of the role, the more comfortable that candidate will be when they join you. Remember this will be a daunting new world for the apprentice!

The role will change over time no doubt, but if you can encourage the apprentice and offer good, constructive feedback, and if the apprentice works to take this feedback in the spirit it is intended, you will both do very well together.

The apprenticeship is run by The Insurance Institute and LIA in partnership with IT Sligo, with the academic element taking place entirely online, via distance learning. The remote learning element has been a critical aspect of the programme since the beginning, and as a result has thankfully been unaffected by Covid-19 and Government restrictions.

In fact, in many ways the pandemic has demonstrated just how sustainable and resilient the programme is, as during these recent turbulent times it has remained a constant for all those involved. It’s important to note for employers, that while the academic element of the programme begins every September, apprentices can begin work with an insurance employer at any point throughout the year – this can be helpful (although not a necessity) as it allows the apprentice to get an insight into what their role will entail.

Recruitment for the 2022 apprenticeship has already begun – for any employers interested in getting involved in the programme early engagement is recommended as it provides more opportunity to find the exact right candidate for each business.

Also of interest to employers, is the Government’s new scheme (announced in December) which sees all apprentice employers receive an annual grant of €2,000 per apprentice employed.

This is hugely encouraging news which is welcomed by both The Insurance Institute and LIA, and will no doubt be an attractive offer and incentive for many insurance employers. Lastly, it’s worth reminding employers that the education costs of the programme are fully covered (this is in addition to the Government grant of €2,000), therefore, it is obvious that there are compelling advantages to the programme, including significant savings that can be made in terms of training and development.

Brokers Ireland will be hosting an information webinar for prospective Brokers who might be interested in recruiting an apprentice in 2022 on Wednesday 23rd February at 12:00pm. Any employer interested in getting involved should get in touch with The Insurance Institute or LIA to learn more. Alternatively, there is plenty of information available for employers on www.earnandlearn.ie