Recognising Success:
Why acknowledging those supporting apprentices is essential

Issue 17 - Summer 2021


At The Insurance Institute, we place a great value on hard work and achievement – we therefore felt it was important to acknowledge some of the excellent work and dedication that has been evident in the apprenticeship programme, particularly from employers.


The programme has breathed new life into our industry and brought on board a wealth of new talent. However, without the continued support of insurance employers, this programme would not be possible. The role of Supervisor for an apprentice is a hugely important one and in many ways, this relationship will help to shape the apprentice’s future success, this is why we acknowledge it at our recognition ceremony. Breda Farrell and her team at Aon have been exemplary in their commitment to the development and training of their apprentices and so the Supervisor of the Year award has gone to a hugely deserving winner. Well done Breda and all at Aon!


Paula Hodson, Director of Development Services and Education at The Insurance Institute sat down with Breda to learn about her role as Supervisor as well as the impact the apprenticeship has had at Aon.


Breda, congratulations on your recent award for Supervisor of the Year – can you tell me what it meant to you and to Aon to be recognised in this way?


It was indeed completely unexpected and, in some ways, surprising, as together with my colleagues Ray Fox, Peter Caprani and (former) colleague Owen Pepper, we would consider this role as being just part of what we would do naturally in support of the future development of our colleagues.


For how long has Aon been involved with the apprenticeship programme and why did the company decide to participate in the first place?


Aon has been involved with the apprenticeship programme for just over four years now and participated in the programme to support the recruitment of talent within the company and generally within the industry. We see the apprenticeship as a great add on to our Colleague Development & Growth Agenda which helps develop the skills we need to bring the best of Aon to its clients, support career progression and drive a sustainable and professional business at all levels.


The apprenticeship programme complements our colleague development programme. Whilst we have the advantage of Aon University as a hub for both technical and soft skills learning, we have locally augmented this resource with our technical “book clubs” where policy wordings are dissected, discussed and debated and with our “lunch ‘n’ learn” meetings where colleagues present on topical issues and share their experiences and outcomes. All of this activity only helps to advance the apprentice’s learning and development further.


What have been the main advantages (of being involved in the programme)?


The programme provides an opportunity for Aon to instil its core values during the formative development stage of future insurance professionals, through the practical and user-friendly learning experiences supported by The Insurance Institute and the Institute of Technology in Sligo. This learning experience coupled with on the ground work experience, and the in-house training initiatives run by Aon for all its colleagues helps foster both technical development and shape key skills and behaviours.


The apprentices will achieve a third-level qualification on completion of the programme – how important was this to Aon?


Because Aon operates within a highly regulated industry, it is vital that the requisite professional and academic qualifications are achieved by its entire client-facing colleagues. I believe that any professional qualification acts as a fundamental foundation stone in understanding and being able to respond to the ever increasing technical challenges we all face in our industry today.


Have you found that their training and education on the programme has been useful in terms of their day to day work?


Yes, it certainly has been very useful. The daily, structured interaction between practical experience, training and education, is an ideal way to nurture potential through to professional, in a methodical and safe environment for all concerned.


Can you tell me what your role of Supervisor consisted of and why it is important?


Getting to know the apprentices as individuals, understanding their requirements and committing fully to meeting their development needs in a manner that is interesting, inspiring and fun.


At a basic level, an effective supervisor must optimise the programme to fully meet all participant objectives. However, the supervisor’s ability to engage with and motivate candidates to fully understand and to appreciate the importance of our profession is vital – particularly at this formative stage in the development of future insurance professionals.


Did you feel the Supervisor role benefited you in any way?


Personally, I found the role of supervisor very invigorating and highly rewarding.


First, there is the delight in meeting bright young candidates, all eager to learn and brimming with potential; followed by the excitement of getting to know them as individuals and identifying their potential and recognising their needs. There is of course the ongoing responsibility of meeting their learning requirements and optimising their day-to-day work experience in a manner that is constructive and beneficial to all concerned. Here, The Insurance Institute is to be complemented as The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship is very practical and well thought out.


However, by far the most rewarding benefit as supervisor is seeing the progress made, as initial potential is crafted into practical purpose and ability morphs into positive professionalism. And best of all – when some of the group shows heightened potential and are motivated to share a passion for our industry, an industry that I have been passionate about and enjoyed for many years.


Do you think the apprentices have managed to fill a skills gap in your organisation and have they brought new learning/insight to your business?


One of the real attributes of the programme and indeed the Aon Colleague Development programme is the significant influx of energy, new ideas and modernity brought by the apprentices and my younger colleagues into an industry often considered dull and old fashioned. This potential invigorates the organisation and is like an electric shock to the system. Harnessing it to the benefit of both the organisation and all colleagues is where the real value of this and our broader programme lies. Through these complementary initiatives, energy is restored, and new ideas and insights are not just learned but lived.  


Has the COVID-19 crisis affected your options while hiring and does The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship present an opportunity in the current market?


The programme enjoys one significant benefit over all other recruitment practices. It allows an organisation ‘grow its own’ in a manner that best integrates with the values, professionalism and culture of the organisation. Each company has its own attributes and meets the exacting needs of its customers in its own unique manner. Better therefore to implant these requirements within candidates through their formative years than try to source and retrofit them in candidates sourced from the market. Add in the current and likely future “working” difficulties associated with Covid-19 and there is an even more compelling case and a continued place for The Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship programme within the Irish Insurance Industry.



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