Terry Pierce, Business Manager, BJP Insurance, shares his experience of hiring an apprentice last year, advice on the remote on-boarding process, and discusses the reasons why his company plans to reinvest in the apprenticeship in 2021.
What encouraged you to take on an apprentice during a pandemic? Did you avail of the Government incentive scheme?
We like all businesses felt the impact of the pandemic but fortunately enough there were sections of the business that experienced a dramatic increase in enquiries and they needed some assistance. Rachael Ruane (our apprentice) actually reached out to us directly and I always respect those candidates who make the extra effort and reach out directly. When you are recruiting you are always looking for someone that stands out from the crowd and Rachael did that.
When you recruited your apprentice, how did you manage their initial remote induction and training?
Rachael’s initial induction and training actually took place in the office. The rest of the office were all working from home so she was able to come in and work with me directly. Due to the fact that she was able to operate in a supervised environment with fewer distractions than the normal office she was able to ask questions and grasp the insurance basics far quicker than maybe possible in a busy office environment.
Almost 10 months into the programme, how has the experience been for you?
For us the experience has been great, and we are extremely lucky to have Rachael as part of the team. She has picked up all of the insurance basics really well and successfully passed her first semester of the apprenticeship programme and the respective exams. We are focused on getting Rachael through the exams and once she has her APA qualifications achieved we have a place already earmarked for her on one of the teams.
What advice would you give to other insurance employers who are thinking of taking on an Apprentice in 2021?
The candidate is the most important consideration in the apprenticeship programme. It is slightly different to the normal hiring process as you also have to factor in the additional course workload that the candidate has to complete outside his/her daily role. It is important to select a candidate that has the ambition and dedication to see out the three year programme. In light of the current working from home environment there has to be significant consideration placed on the education and supervision capabilities of the employer for the apprentice, there is no point in taking on an apprentice if you are not going to be able to assist them on a daily basis.
How has the apprentice/s integrated into the business?
We adopted a rotation system for Rachael and we will try and get her experience in all departments of the business if possible over 6/12 month cycles. This enables her to get first-hand experience dealing with different insurance products, different teams and also different clients. Rachael has recently moved departments and the personal lines team already want her back, so I think that says it all!! We are hopeful that our commercial team will be back in the office by the time she is due to move for her next rotation.
Were there any challenges with the remote on-boarding - if so how did you overcome these?
Yes remote working as a whole definitely has its challenges, whether you are qualified or an apprentice. I think the most important thing for the remote on-boarding process is to have a clear set of tasks laid out that the apprentice is comfortable undertaking on his/ her own. The biggest challenge for the employer is creating a function that is challenging and enjoyable for the apprentice. It is important to provide as much variety in the role as possible, we try to combine administration functions with practical functions. We were fortunate enough the way the lockdown periods fell, Rachael was able to spend enough time in the office to be comfortable working remotely. I think communication is one of the main challenges and it’s important that routine catch-ups, individual and teams calls are in the diary on a weekly basis.
Would you recommend the Apprenticeship Programme to other insurance employers?
Yes absolutely we have found the experience great to date and we will hopefully be in a position to take on two more apprentices for the September 2021 intake.
If you’re interested in learning more about The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship log on to earnandlearn.ie.