BGL Group's Rachael Gillett on why apprenticeships could be a return to insurance roots
Many view apprenticeships as an obstacle to overcome or avoid but Rachael Gillett, chief people officer at BGL Group, reminds the sector that many existing employees started their successful careers this way.
It’s been widely recognised that the insurance industry is in need of technological change and disruption to remain relevant. The ever-present risk is that market disruption will be imposed from outside by challengers from other sectors, but insurers, brokers and intermediaries with an eye on 2025 and beyond will want to stay one step ahead by driving change from within.
To succeed in doing so, they are going to need to recruit and develop specialist skills which are currently in short supply across the market – including technology, data, digital and coding – to supplement the financial and actuarial skills which are an industry constant. This is a fact, widely acknowledged. However, as an industry we’ve often been slow to embrace change and have paid lip service to the need for new approaches. Now is the time for genuine action. Apprenticeships should be a key pillar in this, providing a route to attract the fresh talent and outlook the industry needs – from bright, tech-savvy school leavers to career changers and those returning to work after having children.
Yet many apprenticeship schemes to date have met with mixed results. This may be the result of the approach, rather than a reflection on the participants. If apprenticeship schemes are viewed as a source of easily disposable labour, how can they be expected to fill the skills gaps which the industry increasingly needs to plug? If we don’t treat apprentices as the foundation of our future success, how can we expect them to stay long enough to reap the rewards of our investment? We can’t.
The news that, 18 months after the apprenticeship levy was launched, employers have only used 14% of the funds available makes for grim reading. Instead of viewing the apprenticeship levy as, at best, an obstacle to overcome or avoid, companies should seize the opportunity to sow the seeds of their future business by delivering ambitious learning opportunities across a wide – and modern – range of subjects.
Done well, apprenticeships can be of huge benefit to employers as well as to the apprentices themselves, revitalising businesses, broadening skillsets, creating a more diverse workforce and developing the right talent pool for the future. They also provide an avenue for continued upskilling and the development of new specialisms at any stage of a career.
So instead of being regarded as red tape, apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy are (and should be viewed as) a return to the insurance industry’s roots. Many underwriters and brokers reading this will have joined the industry as school leavers. It was an approach which served the market well for generations. Specialist apprenticeships focused on the digital skills needed to ensure we are primed to embrace innovation are simply a new take on a tried and tested approach – and one that, as a digital-first company, has been working well for us.
Perhaps by placing greater emphasis – and fresh eyes – on what was a standard means of entry into insurance for generations, we can bring some much-needed innovation and disruption to the market.