Willis Insurance & Risk Management has partnered with SERC to deliver a worked-based learning programme in a bid to build the management skills of students and open a pathway to employment within the insurance sector.
The firm, which delivers insurance services across all sectors, in addition to a range of wealth management, accident investigation, health and safety, and employment law services, has employed two students at its Belfast headquarters with a third to start later this year.
Owen Finnegan, a law graduate from Camlough, and Belfast modern languages graduate Maeve McKavanagh are working at the company as Business Support Executives.
They are taking part in SERC's Entry to Management graduate programme, funded by the Department for the Economy, which allows students to continue their studies while developing business leadership skills in a workplace setting along the way.
Richard Willis, Managing Director, Willis Insurance & Risk Management said the initiative provides an important route into a growing industry.
"There is no degree qualification or set route into the insurance industry at present.
"That means people can incorrectly assume they are not qualified or believe it is a difficult industry to get into.
"That is not the case. It is a growing sector which offers significant opportunities to ambitious graduates.
"Our relationship with SERC helps us to recruit students who share the drive and ambition of Willis IRM to deliver the best advice and highest levels of service to our clients."
The placements at Willis IRM last 24 weeks and follow similar initiatives that have resulted in students moving into full-time employment with the business.
Throughout the period, the students attend SERC on a weekly basis to continue their studies.
"We are delighted to collaborate with SERC on the Entry to Management graduate programme.
"Owen and Maeve have proved to be extremely capable and an asset to the company, not to mention a credit to SERC."
SERC Leadership and Management Consultant Jenny McConnell, who leads the programme said:
"We are delighted to have formed a partnership with Willis Insurance & Risk Management.
"By taking part in the programme, the company is leading the way in improving workplace opportunities across the sectors and especially in insurance and risk management.
"Other business that have signed up to the programme are already seeing real tangible outcomes.
"It allows them to target the right talent to suit their company and raises up a new generation of leaders to contribute to their future growth."
Maeve said the experience had encouraged her to take up a career within human resources.
"I had initially planned to have a career in written translation. However, during my retail management training, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience gained in human resources and recruitment, which inspired me to pursue a career in this area and led me to Willis Insurance and Risk Management.
"The team at Willis IRM is highly skilled and professional, so shadowing and learning from industry leaders is invaluable experience and I am very grateful for the opportunity."
"I couldn't have asked for a better start at Willis Insurance. Everyone has been very welcoming.
"Through the programme, I hope to learn a broad range of new skills and tune those I already have in order to ready me for the workplace.
"The insurance and risk management industry is not always first on people's minds when thinking about their career but through this experience, I have found it is a sector which should be more broadly considered by those ready to enter the world of work."