A flourishing Hampshire motor and home insurance broking business is ensuring it continues to thrive with the launch of an apprenticeship scheme which could prove to be a game-changer for the industry.
Be Wiser Insurance started with just three employees in 2007 in a small office, in Andover. Today it employs 535 in five offices in the town and is about to acquire a sixth office. It has been in the Sunday Times Fast Track top 100 companies for the past three years.
Now chairman and chief executive officer Mark Bower-Dyke is sharing his recipe for success by creating an apprenticeship to teach school-leavers how to be the best in the business.
“Although there are 380,000 employees working in today’s insurance industry, it is estimated that fewer than 10 per cent are qualified,” Bower-Dyke told those at the launch of Headstart.
Headstart is an apprenticeship scheme based at the firm’s Andover academy which will give school-leavers with five GCSEs the chance to have a degree level qualification by the age of 21.
Passionate about raising standards in his industry, Bower-Dyke explained. “Our business will only continue to grow if our employees are better trained, we are working to improve our staff and their prospects.”
“We love Andover, we have five offices here and we are working to get bigger by being better. We can only do that if we are able to train and bring forward the right people.”
Be Wiser’s assistant director for HR and training, Crescens George added: “ In three years Be Wiser has invested in excess of £1m in training, first offering the courses to young people with A-levels and graduates and now opening up the opportunities to school leavers.”
Lee Scott from the National Apprenticeship Service was full of praise for Be Wiser. “Of all the employers that I work with I don’t think that I have come across a better apprentice employer in terms of number of apprenticeships and investment.”
It was, he said: “A company where local young people can get great skills, with a great employer on their doorstep.”
Headstart was unveiled at Synergy 2014 – an event specifically directed at Andover and Basingstoke schools to show head teachers and careers advisors what Be Wiser could offer school leavers.
Among those who attended were Tony Parsons head of Harrow Way, Andy Mountain assistant head of Aldworth School in Basingstoke and representatives from Winton Community Academy and John Hanson School.
David Gleave Test Valley Borough Council’s Economic Development Officer also praised Be Wiser.
It was, he said, making a connection with the learning providers. “In recent years schools and businesses have split wider apart, and it’s more confusing than ever for young people with tuition fees and all that business. Be Wiser is bridging that gap locally and from the council’s point of view, it’s brilliant!”
Be Wiser has developed a bespoke four classroom academy which is sited in London Street, Andover. It will enrol 30 GCSE students who should attain the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Certificate within their first 31 days. Within two years they should have reached CII Diploma level – the equivalent of three A-levels.
The school leavers’ starting salary will be £12,000, but once they have the diploma they will receive a salary of £18,000, plus uncapped bonus.
Tony Parsons from Harrow Way school added: “Apprenticeships provide a good alternative for our students to consider, but there are often relatively few available in the area. We need more employers to offer high quality apprenticeships and with the government raising the participation age, apprenticeships will become ever more in demand.”
“I believe what Be Wiser are offering is an attractive compromise around rigorous further study and clear career progression opportunities.”