National Apprenticeship Week – Insurance apprenticeships

"I actually feel I've got the best job in RSA"

National Apprenticeship Week – Insurance apprenticeships

Insurance News

By Mia Wallace

They say if you want to the right answer then you need to ask the right questions. For Clare Connor (pictured), professional development consultant (apprenticeships) at RSA, the right question when it comes to apprenticeships is not why somebody should consider one but rather why on earth they wouldn’t. With today marking the start of National Apprenticeship week, Connor, who herself completed an apprenticeship, emphasised the range of benefits that come with pursuing such opportunities.

“Why wouldn’t you choose to join a business where you can get a good salary and all the learning and experience that you need?” she asked. “Say you’re somebody who’s 18 or 19 years old and it’s your first job - in three years you will probably be on the same money as a graduate would be when joining a business, but you’ve got no student debt and three years’ experience living and breathing that role. It’s really a question of why wouldn’t you, with an apprenticeship? You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

A lot of people simply don’t realise how important or valuable apprenticeships are, she said, or how many people they can impact. It is with this in mind that Connor has built out RSA’s apprenticeship platform from greenfield roots to the booming operation it is today. RSA currently has 58 programmes across the business, with 276 apprentices holding down a variety of roles - but what’s critical is that the insurer does not believe that apprenticeships should be limited to people early in their careers.

“Our most mature apprentice is 63 years old, so we’ve got people from 18 to 63 and everyone in between,” she said. “The average age of a person on our apprenticeship programme at the moment is 33, so it’s not just people in their early career. It’s also people that maybe didn’t have the right opportunities when they were younger or who found themselves falling into a certain role but who want to move on to the next level or gain a professional qualification. And this is what our apprenticeship programmes can do, they can give people their first start, or move them up the ladder as [they] go all the way up to a Master’s level.”

In time for National Apprenticeship Week, RSA has quite a strategic steer within its early careers piece, but 2022 will also see the insurance giant start a formal graduate programme that will allow graduates to join degree or Master’s level apprenticeships as part of their programme. A minimum of 70 candidates who have just left college or university will be joining the team, she said, and it really is a case of the “the more, the merrier”.

Exploring what it takes to build a truly great campaign, she highlighted that if an insurance business wants to build a ground-breaking apprenticeship platform then the whole business needs to get behind that initiative. In the early days of her role, Connor said, she spent a lot of her time influencing and educating stakeholders on the power of apprenticeships because there remains some stigma attached to these opportunities.

“I’ve spent a lot of time raising awareness and on that education piece and it has been a real domino effect as once you’ve got someone on board, particularly if they’re senior, it rolls across,” she said. “We’ve really started to change people’s minds and perspectives on what apprenticeships are and how they can benefit your business. So, firstly, it’s about having that buy-in from the business, and I think you need that to come from the top.

“Then you need to be able to ensure that you’re working with good training partners to deliver your programmes. They’re the biggest impact on your apprentices because they’re the ones that deliver the training. [Thirdly], you need to have a plan around how you deal with [apprentices] internally in terms of their development. Their apprenticeship will give them so much, it will give them a lot of technical knowledge, but we like to wrap our arms around our people, to give them a bit more, but also to have a plan for what’s next after they get their apprenticeship.”

RSA is looking to build solid career paths for their apprentices so they can plot out a career within the organisation. It is by building out these early and emergent talent programmes that a company can find the leaders of the future, she said. That’s not limited to apprentices specifically being technical leaders or people leaders, but rather widening the door to what the future of leadership looks like. That’s a key piece of advice Connor has for insurance firms looking to walk the trail that RSA is looking to blaze – bring new talent in but have a solid plan regarding what’s next for them.

Looking at her work on RSA’s apprenticeships piece, she noted that underpinning all her advice is her own experience in what a positive experience it is to lead apprenticeship programmes. At the annual graduation event the company holds each year, Connor sees the people that have come up through the programme and accomplished such great things and being part of that is the reason why she relishes her role.

“I always say at graduation, I feel I’ve got the best job in RSA,” she said. “I’m sure a lot of people will say that as well, but I actually do think I’ve got one of the best jobs just because of the nature of my work. I absolutely love it.”

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