THIS marks the seventh year of The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship and during this time it has managed to exceed all expectations and breathed new life into our industry.
Initially, the programme was set up to attract high quality candidates into the insurance sector – this was at a time when many insurance employers were struggling to recruit and retain talent.
It also sought to enable these individuals to build a sustainable and exciting career for themselves within the industry – to move away from the idea of ‘just a job’ and to begin to build on the reputation of insurance as an interesting and dynamic profession.
In many ways, we could never have imagined how successful the programme would be – it has not only created new jobs, but it has led to an influx of new talent and as a result has helped to revitalise and modernise the sector.
One of the most critical elements of the programme is the fact it was set up by the industry, for the industry – this means that at all times it is responding to the current issues and needs of the sector, and it provides a structure that ensures apprentices are obtaining and developing the various skills that are required for the modern world of insurance.
The apprenticeship sees the apprentices work full-time for an insurance employer, with one day per week devoted to their online lectures, which are run in partnership with IT Sligo.
One of the most attractive elements of the three year ‘earn and learn’ programme is the fact the apprentices gain real, on the job learning, as well as a level-8 qualification (BA Hons in Insurance Practice).
The apprenticeship has of course immense benefits for both apprentices and insurance employers alike – apprentices have the chance to carve out a viable and exciting career for themselves in a sector that presents incredible opportunities.
Employers, on the other hand, gain a motivated, enthusiastic employee, who they can rest assured is at the forefront of their professional development – this gives them great peace of mind as they know they are safeguarding the future of their business by putting the right staff, with the right skills, in place.
Since The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship was first established the landscape around apprenticeships has changed dramatically and, in many ways, there has never been a better time to get involved in an apprenticeship programme. In recent years much work has been done by Government to support employers of apprentices and this has really paid off – with a record 24,212 apprentices having registered on apprenticeship programmes in 2021 – this is up 8,607 on 2020.
At the Institute we are always delighted to hear of any incentive that encourages employers to get involved in apprenticeships. Therefore, when The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, announced in December that apprentice employers will receive an annual grant of €2,000 per apprentice employed it was hugely welcome news.
The Apprenticeship Employer Grant will be available to all apprenticeship employers involved in any of the apprenticeship programmes that have been set up in Ireland since 2016.
We believe this to be a tremendously encouraging initiative and one which will benefit all employers involved in our apprenticeship programme.
In addition to the grant, it’s worth mentioning that the education costs of the programme are fully covered, therefore, it is obvious that there are many compelling advantages to the apprenticeship, including significant savings that can be made in terms of training and development.
I do believe that all of us involved in The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship are extremely fortunate - our apprenticeship programme remained largely unaffected by the pandemic, and it thankfully continues to go from strength to strength. However, this is in no small part due to the support we receive from Government, and from the employers involved, who constantly put their trust in the apprenticeship and without whom there would be no programme.
The apprenticeship is always seeking expressions of interest and we are currently advising any employer or apprentice interested in this years’ programme to get in touch soon. Early engagement benefits everyone – it ensures the employer has time to find the right candidate for their business and apprentices are up to speed on all requirements, so that they’re ready to hit the ground running.
It’s worth noting that the programme is not for the faint hearted – working and studying is not easy, it takes commitment, which is of course worth it, but it isn’t for everyone. The insurance sector presents wonderful opportunities, and there are countless options that can be explored within the sector – you can have a huge variety in terms of career development – but in order to get there, apprentices need to be committed to the academic element, as well as to their day job.
Also, in terms of employers, taking on an apprentice requires dedication – I know one employer said to me recently the more effort you put in, the more you will get from your apprentice – which I think rings very true.
Each apprentice is assigned a mentor and supervisor within each business – this of course takes up time, but it’s a great opportunity for other staff members to develop their skillset in leadership roles.
Also, the apprenticeship allows employers to ‘grow their own’ so to speak – they take on board a high-quality candidate who is committed to their business and who learns the ropes from the inside out. They also bring with them their current learning and knowledge and many employers report learning lots from their apprentices too!
The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship is here to stay and presents excellent prospects for apprentices and employers. We, at the Institute, are looking forward to the year ahead, and can’t wait to welcome a whole new generation into the industry once again.
If you would like to learn more about The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship you can logon to earnandlearn.ie for more information.