Since it was set up in 2016 the apprenticeship programme has sought to provide apprentices with the skills they need for the modern world of insurance. This means that the delivery and content of their academic learning is constantly evolving and being updated to ensure it is at all times meeting best practice and ahead of the curve. IT Sligo has been our academic partner since the beginning – the educational institution saw the potential of the programme and helped to bring it to life. Also IT Sligo’s experience in the area of remote learning has been invaluable and a critical aspect to the programme.
We recently caught up with Marie Moran, Head of the Department of Business at IT Sligo as we wanted to hear about the apprenticeship from IT Sligo’s perspective. Marie shares some of her insights with us about why it works so well, and what makes the programme unique.
Marie you and your team have been our partners on the apprenticeship programme since the beginning – can you tell me why you initially got involved and what appealed to you about the programme?
Our Head of School, Dr. Michael Barrett, was instrumental in establishing the apprenticeship programme. From the onset he saw the potential of the programme and knew it could provide a unique opportunity for an industry-academic partnership, with innovation at its core – it was obvious that there were tangible benefits for the insurance sector and for the apprentices who gain their qualification.
In my opinion what makes this apprenticeship work so well is the strong relationship between us, your team at The Insurance Institute and LIA – we all work together to ensure that at all times the apprentices learning is directly related to what is needed in the workplace, as well as meeting the requirements of the level-8 degree. We also have a Programme Board which regularly reviews the curriculum to ensure it is always capturing any current and future industry developments – something which is essential to staying relevant.
The remote learning aspect is a critical element of the programme, from IT Sligo’s perspective can you tell us how this works?
The apprentices log into classes for one full day each week so the classes are organised to make best use of that day. Lecturers use different formats and structures for classes, depending on the subject. Classes are delivered live so it is as close as you can get to the classroom experience, without being on campus. As well as the live classes, there are resources made available for each class, as well as access to the usual additional resources that are available to all students.
The remote learning works exceptionally well and lecturers of the apprentices see very high levels of engagement in the online classroom and are always commenting on how interested they are – this is because they are able to tangibly put into practice their learning from their studies daily in the workplace, and this leads to a very valuable understanding of theory in practice.
Can you tell us about the delivery of the course content and how it is regularly refined and updated?
Each module is reviewed by the lecturer as they work through content, so that the material is always current and up to date. The course is a unique combination of professional qualifications, as well as technical, business and communication skills. This combination is extremely important for the insurance profession and we are in the process of reviewing the entire programme now as part of our re-validation procedures. As part of that process, we have held focus groups with industry representatives and this feedback will go back to academic staff for further review. We won’t be making significant changes to the programme but we will enhance some aspects of it to ensure it is meeting best practice and also contains the most relevant information.
What in your opinion are the main benefits for apprentices/students undertaking the apprenticeship programme?
The ability to ‘earn and learn’ provides a fantastic opportunity to achieve a level 8 BA Honours degree, while working and applying your learning in your job. . Apprentices learn all about working in a team in a professional environment, while studying, so they really get hands on practical workplace experience at the same time as achieving the academic qualification. They also have great supports in the form of their mentors and they are part of a wider network of the insurance industry profession.
From IT Sligo’s perspective, did the pandemic impact the programme delivery?
We were very lucky in many respects, as the programme is already delivered online. IT Sligo has a wealth of experience in online delivery and lecturers were able to translate the activities that would normally be done at the face-to-face sessions into similar sessions online, so that none of the benefits would be lost. Having said that, I am sure that we will all look forward to resuming the in person elements of the programme when that is possible.
Recruitment for the apprenticeship programme runs from October to August each year. To find out more visit earnandlearn.ie.