The coming year will be one where we adapt to delivering industry education through new channels, writes Sean McGrath, CEO of Allianz Ireland and President of the Insurance Institute.
2020 will undoubtedly be recorded as a transformative year globally as the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The past number of months have created huge and unforeseeable difficulties for people right across Ireland and the recovery too will continue to present significant challenges.
We will see many industry sectors, including our own, undergo significant change, but also identifying new opportunities. As our industry responds to these changes and opportunities the role of ongoing education will be crucial to helping the sector and the individuals who work in it to adapt.
For the duration of my presidency of the Insurance Institute, an organisation that has been in existence since 1885, my primary focus will be to help, guide and support the Institute team as it seeks to support the continuing development of vital skills in our sector.
Career Learning and Apprenticeships as Competitive Advantage
I am a big believer in the value of professional education. I’ve been a member of two professional bodies for most of my career (The Institute of Actuaries and The Insurance Institute) and I depend on them both to keep my knowledge and expertise current and relevant. We hear a lot nowadays about lifelong learning and for me this is essential. Ongoing education that combines the theory with the actual day to day practice on the ground is invaluable and is the cornerstone to a successful career.
I am also a strong advocate for the apprenticeship programme. In recent years the value of apprenticeships has been realised, and around the world they are seen as a solution to the transitioning of academic learning in the workplace. The dual aspect of the apprenticeship model effectively combines what the apprentice learns in the educational classroom environment with what they learn on the job.
At Allianz we have a long history of investing in apprenticeship programmes as a way to develop future talent – our office in Germany has 900 apprentices employed and the UK has also recently developed a new apprenticeship programme. Here in Ireland, we currently have 20 Insurance Practitioner Apprentices working in our business. In my opinion, there is really no better way to kick start a career in insurance - the blend of the degree programme, the mentoring system and of course the practical on the job learning, is ideal and provides those starting out with both the knowledge and the experience they need.
Digitising ongoing education and exams
All of the Institute’s education programmes ranging from course books, learning supports, classes and mock exams have been available online in recent years.
But we will need to look at expanding this, given the current challenges posed by COVID-19. For example, we have moved our exams online, with students taking these exams at home or from their offices. While working from anywhere or working from home has been enforced on us for the past few months, it has highlighted that education too can be taken from home or indeed anywhere you can take a laptop that’s fitted with a camera and reliable internet connectivity. There are a lot of things we might not go back to after this crisis and exam halls could well be one of them.
We also have 10,000 graduates who rely on the Institute for continuous professional development (CPD). For many, there will be no change as they continue to do their CPD online. But for those who like to attend lectures, we are hosting a series of live webinars. The chat box facility enables an interactive experience and the feedback from members is that they are very enjoyable and a nice way to stay connected to the insurance community in the current environment. Longer term, I would like to see us move to a continuous assessment model for our advanced qualifications, we have already made the change in five of the MDI modules and we are working on the remaining ones.
We are also working with our accreditation partners, IT Sligo, to get it recognised on the National Framework of Qualifications at Level 8. This will elevate the programme to Higher Diploma status.
I hope the Institute will continue to be a source of encouragement and support to all as we deal with the unprecedented challenges that we are facing in 2020 and beyond.
I also want to convey my sincerest sympathies to everyone in our industry who has suffered bereavement among family, friends, colleagues and of course former colleagues during the course of the pandemic.
The Institute has been around since 1885 and from a very early stage it’s aims were articulated very clearly. The purpose is to educate, inspire and connect members of the Insurance profession and that’s as relevant now as it was 135 years ago. In 2020, I will be doing everything I can to ensure that we continue to deliver on our commitment to our members this year and into the future.