Zurich North America is tackling the insurance talent crisis head on by doubling the size of its apprenticeship program in 2022.
The insurer announced it will hire approximately 70 apprentices in cities across the United States where it has offices, such as Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Overland Park (Kansas), Philadelphia, San Francisco and Schaumburg (Illinois). Successful candidates will be hired to work in at least 14 of Zurich’s businesses and functions, including claims, underwriting, sales, IT, cyber security, crop insurance, and other areas. Applications are expected to open later this month, and apprentices will begin the program in August 2022.
Since its introduction in 2016, Zurich North America’s apprenticeship program has “opened up another lane to the talent highway,” according to Al Crook, head of HR business partners and apprenticeships at Zurich North America. The program has complemented the insurer’s regular hiring practices of professional hiring, executive hiring, and college hiring, and has become a key way for Zurich to fill a talent gap with people “from a different population and a different pool” than the firm previously had access to.
The two-year apprenticeship program is an earn-while-you-learn opportunity to launch a career in insurance. Apprentices split their time each week, with three days of on-the-job training under the mentorship of Zurich colleagues and two days focused on college coursework toward an associate degree, with tuition funded by Zurich. They receive a full-time salary, full benefits, and are guaranteed a position and promotion opportunities with Zurich upon successful completion of the program.
“Demand for apprenticeship programs has increased greatly in recent years, and I’m very proud that Zurich has been part of creating that demand,” said Crook. “I’ll use an adage from a famous movie: ‘If you build it, they will come.’ We knew this was good. We knew that giving opportunities to individuals who didn’t have them before was good. Inherently, we knew there were people who were excluded from the labor market and from really great career jobs because they didn’t have the guest pass to get in – and that guest pass was the bachelor’s degree.
“We’re not going to put colleges out of business. This is just another path for people […] and they still get to go to college, but it will be paid for, and they’ll have a full-time job with benefits in a career that’s exciting. That resonates with a lot of people. We don’t have any trouble filling our pipeline. It’s full of great talent who we never would have met before – diverse talent, innovative talent, and excited talent – and that’s just another great arrow to have in the quiver of our talent arsenal.”
The 2022 apprenticeship program expansion is the biggest yet. Since its inception in 2016, Zurich has typically hired around 24-30 apprentices in each cohort, primarily in general insurance positions within its Schaumburg headquarters. Over the years, Zurich has added focus areas for its apprentices, to where it now offers opportunities in IT, cybersecurity, and other business functions that people don’t typically associate with a career in the insurance industry. The insurer has also tripled its cohort of apprentices and expanded geographically.
“Every function has apprentice-able work,” stressed Crook. “In every job that exists, I believe there’s work that an apprentice could do. And we’re really capturing that opportunity in how we’re approaching the apprenticeship program expansion and growth.”