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Zurich touts apprenticeships at RIMS

May 13, 2019

al crook rims 2019

About two dozen insurance professionals gathered in the Global Studio at RIMS 2019 to hear Al Crook discuss how apprenticeship programs, like the one Zurich North America started more than three years ago, can help address talent shortages in the industry.

Crook, head of HR business partners for Zurich, spoke for 20 minutes at the annual gathering of risk managers and insurance professionals, which took place April 28-May 1 in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. His presentation, “Apprentices and Insurance: Addressing the Insurance Talent Gap,” outlined how the changing workforce is affecting talent acquisition and recruiting strategies for the industry.

He explained why Zurich began a first-of-its-kind apprenticeship program in North America and detailed some of the lessons Zurich has learned along the way.

Because unemployment rates are low, talent is in short supply, Crook said. In addition, technology is transforming how we work, where we work and how work is defined.

“Part of everyone’s talent strategy needs to address what we can do to be proactive about how we recruit, manage and retain talent, and even how we structure jobs in the future,” Crook said.

Zurich is focusing on innovation that helps us adapt to the future of work, Crook explained. And for Zurich’s talent strategy, apprenticeships are a big piece of this focus.

Crook explained why apprenticeship programs can help fill a talent gap while also addressing social challenges, like the student college debt crisis.

The average debt student loan that borrowers have when they graduate is $37,172, according the the US Student Loan Service Center.

Zurich’s apprenticeship program includes three days of on-the-job training at Zurich’s North American headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., and two days of classes each week at Harper College in nearby Palatine, which, at completion, allows the apprentice to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration while developing key vocational and professional skills at Zurich. Zurich’s apprentices begin as full-time employees with benefits and graduate as full-time employees without additional student debt.

Crook described some of the ideal candidates for Zurich’s apprenticeship program as: recent high school graduates trying to determine their career paths; returning military members looking for their first civilian jobs; retail workers and coffee baristas looking for more challenging and rewarding work; parents who took time away from the job market who need new skills to return.

Finally, Crook encouraged audience members to consider apprenticeships as a way to attract new and diverse talent to their workforce. He said that resources are available to help on a global, national and local level. Those interested in exploring apprenticeship program should reach out to local local community or city colleges and businesses, like Zurich, that have paved the way.

In the video below, Crook talk about spreading the gospel of apprenticeship programs for the insurance industry at the RIMS annual conference.