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INSETA celebrates graduation of 348 learners to fill key skills gap

21 January 2009 Inseta

The South African insurance industry has a new cadre of 348 high-potential and well-trained black graduates at its disposal thanks to a national Learnership run by the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA).

The year-long Wealth Management Level 5 Learnership for Unemployed Black Graduates is a learnership that was specifically set up to accelerate the entry of black South African graduates into the insurance industry where a critical shortage was identified, particularly in middle management.

According to Sharon Snell, Acting CEO of INSETA, the critical skills shortage was highlighted by insurance sector stakeholders and Insurance Sector Skills Plan (SSP) research. INSETA applied for and received NSF funding to partially fund the Learnership.

“Insurance sector businesses, like the rest of the financial sector, have to meet the requirements of the Financial Services Charter. This requires businesses to meet certain transformation requirements. The challenge facing the insurance sector is that it faces stiff competition for black graduates, and particularly those with the potential to enter management, from other parts of the financial services industry, such as the banking sector. This Learnership was thus developed to ‘grow our own’ so to speak – to develop a large group of highly trained people who have the skills needed to embark on a successful career in insurance,” explained Snell.

The Learnership consisted of both theory and a significant workplace component which placed each learner with one of a number of insurance firms – they received hands-on experience as well as coaching and mentoring from senior staff there.

Through their in-company experience the learners were able to take a major step towards their FAIS compliance assessments, in which they were found competent, she added.

John Arnesen, CEO of the Financial Planning Institute and a member of the Learnership’s steering committee, said he was optimistic that those who had completed the Learnership would make important contributions to the industry.

“Well done to INSETA – it is brilliant to have such a large number of newly skilled people entering the industry and it will certainly ensure that transformation is given a boost. It will also help give the industry talented people for new opportunities in the market. The South African market, for example, has shifted over the last few years and the industry must meet the insurance needs of a growing black middle-class – having the right people on board will help make efforts to insure many more South Africans a success.”

There are a number of key roles the Learnership graduates are expected to fill within the industry, including the growing opportunities in paraplanning. This is a relatively new role in the industry and is similar to a paralegals role – these are people with a good level of technical or financial skills who can assist established financial planners in tasks that include, but go beyond, administrative duties.

The top performing learners in each province were handed prizes recently at the Learnership’s graduation ceremony and they expressed their support for the progress the Learnership has enabled.

Mercy Kuzwayo (pictured) from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal was announced as the overall top student. According to the 24-year-old, the opportunity to gain experience within a top company like Metropolitan on the Learnership was one of the most rewarding experiences.

“Working within Metropolitan I feel like I have gained so much more than the scope of the Learnership – I think I have taken away a wealth of knowledge that will stand me in good stead anywhere in the financial services sector. I also thought the mentorship element of the Learnership was incredibly beneficial – there is real benefit to one-on-one guidance. Overall I think it was a great Learnership and I look forward to being able to take hold of new opportunities in the near future,” she said.

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