Post Insurance:Aletta Brennan,Training & Quality Manager & Stephanie Lewis,Insurance Apprentice
Why did you decide to take on an apprentice?
Aletta: We would have been approached very early on in the whole journey of the apprenticeship scheme, and from Post Insurance's point of view it was something we were very engaged in. We thought it was an excellent initiative from the government. We're a workforce of about 160 staff, based in Athlone, and I thought it was a good opportunity for somebody in the midlands who would like to pursue a career in the insurance and financial services industry.
Why did you decide to become an insurance apprentice?
Stephanie: I was in college and the course just wasn't a fit for me. I was studying a finance subject but also studying a language, which didn't suit me as a person. I was looking for a way out and I saw online that there was an opportunity to work but also get a level 8, which is what I wanted to come out of all this with. I applied to Post Insurance and all of a sudden one thing led to another – I was starting a job in an area I was more interested in than a language. I wanted to work in the finance industry.
How did you prepare for your apprenticeship application?
Stephanie: Putting your best foot forward on your CV and including all the information about yourself and why you deserve this job is essential. I did a lot of background work; I researched Post Insurance as a company so going into the interview I felt that I could speak about the company
What do you look for in an apprentice?
Aletta: When you think about it, you're working full time, you've got some college work to do, and it's not all going to happen for you unless you're motivated and super organised. You've got to really get on with people.
What challenges might an apprentice face?
Aletta: If you're a student you've got your rag weeks and maybe don't have a nine o'clock start for your lectures, whereas when you're an apprentice you're working in a very professional environment. You're expected to be in on time, you get your lunch break and finish at a certain time. On occasion we may need your additional support on projects. That's just the day job; then you have to go home and open up the books and get your study done because there are continuous assignments and case studies. It's very important to get the balance right. That's one of the biggest challenges apprentices will face.
How do people benefit from an apprenticeship?
Aletta: You're gaining invaluable on the job experience. It's like a passport into the insurance industry. We will help you all the way from day one and our induction is the same as for any new employee we would have. The growth of our apprentices has been unbelievable; their confidence has grown and their product knowledge has improved, which makes everything a little more practical and real for what they're doing in college.
Any advice for someone considering an apprenticeship?
Stephanie: Work on your background knowledge of insurance beforehand and know about the company you're applying to. Make sure you have a high computer knowledge as everything in insurance now involves computers.
Aletta: You've got to be motivated, have a good personality and be able to engage with people because you'll learn the insurance systems. Go in with an open mind and don't be afraid because you've done your research, you know the industry. There are fantastic websites out there with so much information about the apprenticeship programme.
What misconceptions are there about this industry?
Stephanie: People think it's all very boring. We have fun in our office and everyone is very friendly and most are very young. We have great staff nights out together. People think it's all tight suits and not very fun, but it's not like that at all.
Aletta: We get the medium right because we also recognise our staff when they do a good job. We have an employee of the month award and a quality call of the month award. It's nice to say 'well done' to people when they do a good job. That's something we pride in our organisation and spend a lot of time on.
Do you plan to take on more apprentices?
Aletta: We definitely plan to continue with the apprenticeship programme. We began with two apprenticeships, Stephanie and Ciaran, who are now currently in Year Two. Now that we've built a foundation it will be much easier to slot in new apprentices. It's something we're excited about because it has worked very well for us.