Case Study: In South Africa, an Apprenticeship Program Creates New Leaders

Jump to Section:

July 6, 2022


Overview

Across industries and geographies, companies are realizing that the developing and retaining right talent can unlock growth and innovation.

As they seek build a diverse, highly skilled workforce to address changing needs, companies are embracing new strategies to attract, train and retain talent. In some cases, they find that age-old approaches, such as apprenticeships, are powerful investments for the future.

Aon’s own apprenticeship programs in the U.S., U.K. and South Africa have opened new avenues for the next generation of talent to learn while giving organizations access to a diverse and driven talent pool. Greg Case, chief executive officer of Aon, calls the apprenticeship program “an innovative way for employers to attract and retain diverse talent, prepare future leaders and contribute to building a more future-focused, resilient workforce.”

What does an apprenticeship program look like? And how can it help organizations with talent recruitment and retention? A case study from South Africa shows how apprenticeships can fill a critical talent need.

In Depth

South Africa accounts for more than 70 percent of the premiums written on the African continent and is poised for future growth, especially as digitalization takes hold in the insurance industry. New talent will be critical to capitalize on this growth and serve the expanding needs of businesses and the economy.

Recognizing this, Aon South Africa created a Learnership Program designed to encourage diverse talent to get involved in the insurance industry. By developing the skills of young South Africans, the program gives them the knowledge and experience to build successful careers in South Africa’s insurance sector.

“I see this program as a competitive advantage for Aon as we think about how we want to become a better organization on behalf of our clients,” explains Marc Armstrong, managing principal at Aon.

Learners take part in a 12-month work-based program and then take exams to get to the next level. Successful students are offered a further opportunity to join Aon South Africa’s internship program, an 18-month workplace experience that helps continue their growth, knowledge and practical experience.

Aon South Africa partners with youth employment initiative Harambee to help recruit participants in the Learnership Program. That includes an eight-week “readiness” program to prepare new learners for real-world work and entrepreneurship. The program requires participants to build and implement a plan to create and sell products in their local communities, and the most profitable teams are given awards. This type of multifaceted program helps ensure young South Africans are not only exposed to the insurance industry but receive the hands-on experience and guidance that will propel their success as professionals.

The program launched in 2006 with eight learners and has grown significantly. Today, Aon’s Learnerships have introduced 585 young people to the South African insurance sector, including:

  • 361 Learners
  • 161 Interns
  • 63 Graduates

Globally, learners and apprentices have been an important part of Aon’s business and culture.

“I worked with some of the apprentices informally and was incredibly impressed by how the program was helping us drive better outcomes on behalf of our clients,” says Armstrong.

So far 83 learners and graduates have joined Aon as full-time team members while many others have gone on to join other insurance organizations.

“The value proposition for all organizations is clear,” says Janet Osborn, resident managing director for Aon in Washington and Baltimore. “Apprenticeship programs help build a resilient workforce with smart, driven colleagues from a pool of talent that is committed and ready to excel. We are using this as the talent strategy to try to get people who we believe will stay with us longer and contribute more to the firm.”

Apprentices around the world are valuable not only during the tenure of the apprenticeship, but for lifelong learning, curiosity, upskilling and empowerment — all of which contribute to the strength and vitality of an organization and its employees.