Zurich unlocking expertise pool with expanded apprenticeship program

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Since its inception in 2016, Zurich North America’s apprenticeship program has “opened another lane to the Talent Highway,” said Al Crook, Head of HR Business Partner and Apprenticeships at Zurich North America. The program has complemented the regular hiring practices of the insurer for hiring professionals, executives and universities and has become an important way for Zurich to fill a talent gap with people “from a different population and a different pool” than the company before had access to.

The two-year apprenticeship is a learning opportunity for starting a career in the insurance industry. The apprentices divide their time every week, with three days of part-time training under the guidance of Zurich colleagues and two days with a focus on studying on the way to an associate degree, with the tuition fees being financed by Zurich. You will receive a full-time salary, full social benefits and, upon successful completion, receive employment and promotion opportunities at Zurich.

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“The demand for apprenticeships has increased significantly in recent years, and I am very proud that Zurich helped to create this demand,” says Crook. “I’m going to use a saying from a famous movie: ‘If you build it, they’ll come.’ We knew that was good. We knew that it was good to give people opportunities they didn’t have before. We knew by nature that there were people who were excluded from the job market and from really great jobs because they didn’t have a guest pass to get in – and that was the bachelor’s degree.

“We’re not going to put colleges out of business. This is just another way for people […] and they can still go to college but it gets paid and they will have a full time job with perks in an exciting career. That resonates with many. We have no problems filling our pipeline. It’s full of great talents that we would never have met before – diverse talents, innovative talents and enthusiastic talents – and that’s just another big arrow in the quiver of our talent arsenal. “

The expansion of apprenticeship training in 2022 is the largest to date. Since it was founded in 2016, Zurich has typically hired around 24-30 apprentices in each cohort, mostly in general insurance positions at its headquarters in Schaumburg. Over the years, Zurich has expanded its apprenticeships to include opportunities in IT, cybersecurity and other business functions not normally associated with a career in insurance. In addition, the insurer has tripled its apprenticeship cohort and expanded it geographically.

“Every function has apprenticeship work,” stressed Crook. “I believe that in every job there is, there is work that an apprentice could do. And we’re really taking advantage of this opportunity to address the expansion and growth of the apprenticeship program. “

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So far, Zurich has successfully placed 100% of the apprentices who complete the two-year program, and the cumulative retention rate for Zurich apprentices is around 85%. In August 2020, Zurich North America welcomed the largest and most diverse cohort of apprentices in the program’s history, and Crook hopes to continue that success in the expanded program in 2022.

“The retention rate is one of the most exciting aspects of the program – a rate of around 85% for young professionals is very, very good,” he said. “In addition, employees from our training program tend to move faster and more frequently to new roles within the company than other roles with the same attitude, and they are promoted faster and more frequently. If you offer such an opportunity, you get very loyal employees who are nimble and agile and want to stay with the company. “

The apprenticeship program not only increased employee loyalty, it also diversified Zurich’s talent pool. The improvement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is “an adjacent goal for Zurich” all along, but not the core purpose of the apprenticeship program, explained Crook.

“This program is about talent. When you build a program that removes barriers that traditionally kept many of the DE&I applicants away, you automatically open the gates for consideration for that talent to come to you to work, ”he told Insurance Business. “Why does water run down a path when you move the stone? Because you remove the stone. The water always had the potential to move, the ground was always made for it, but something was holding it back. So we removed that barrier.

“This is not a diversity program, this is not a social program, this is a talent program that just happened to be resonating because of the barriers we removed. It attracts and it takes a restriction wrongly put in place, thus allowing a diverse population to show up. And we also know that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunities are not. So when evenly distributed talent emerges to apply for a job that looks like your market, what your candidate base looks like and therefore more diverse, your new hires will end up being more diverse. “

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