One of the greatest challenges faced by South Africa’s insurance industry involves the loss of skills, as veterans of the trade head into retirement; leaving the sector with gaping deficits in talent and expertise. These knowledge gaps represent missed opportunities for the millions of young South Africans who are unemployed. It’s for this reason that positioning insurance as a viable career path and prioritising workplace initiatives such as skills transfer, will become ever more vital in attracting young talent to the industry.
Research conducted by the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA)[i] found that South African school-leavers have a lack of awareness around what the insurance sector has to offer graduates. The study, which involved interviews with employers, brokers and underwriting managers working across various lines of short-term insurance, found that many job seekers land in the industry ‘by accident.’
A large proportion also obtain employment in the market as a secondary consideration, switching from jobs in other realms such as banking or accounting. For Ntokozo Bhengu, Head of Human Resources at MiWay Insurance, these findings point to a general lack of understanding of the prominent role that the insurance industry plays within the broader framework of financial services, and the potential it holds for long-term career growth.
As Ntokozo explains, “The prevailing skills shortage that exists within the industry poses a serious threat to its future. As insurers, we can do much to remedy this by driving school-level programmes that can educate and inspire the youth to explore career prospects in insurance.”
There are, as Ntokozo asserts, several good reasons why attracting and retaining young talent could benefit the industry. One of the most important of these relates to the rapid acceleration of digital innovation.
Youth are the tech-savvy innovators the industry needs
The past few years have seen the significant emergence of Insurtech players into the market, powered by technology such as artificial intelligence, smart data analytics and telematics. This has increased the competitiveness in the industry, prompting more traditional insurers to invest in innovation and onboard new technology to replace legacy systems.
Millennials and members of Gen Z are widely regarded as ‘digital natives,’ or individuals who grew up in the information age and are familiar with how digital technology works. As such, they are in the best position to make a valuable contribution towards future innovation. For insurers, the key to leveraging the full potential of technology to evolve and transform the industry lies within the emerging generation of young employees.
Understanding the needs of tomorrow’s decision-makers
Further to this, as Ntokozo points out, the youth will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in determining the direction of product and service development in insurance. Currently, Gen Z represents the next generation of consumers. “The youth are the future owners of the property, assets and businesses that the insurance industry will serve.
As insurers, we need to understand the unique lifestyles, preferences and mindsets of young people as our up-and-coming clients. To do this, we need to understand how they have developed as consumers, what their needs are, and what they demand from service providers. There is no better way to do this than to welcome them into our ranks and position them as industry representatives who are relatable and who speak the language of their peers,” says Ntokozo.
Motivating the youth to enter the industry has a dual function of stimulating the growth of the market, but also of creating much-needed employment for students and graduates. The youth unemployment rate in South Africa rose to a staggering 62.1% in the first quarter of 2023. Leaders in financial services, as one of the country’s most prominent private sector players, can do much to contribute towards addressing this issue.
Early-stage educational intervention and ongoing training
The key to making a meaningful contribution on this front lies in equipping young learners and students with the right skills and literacy. MiWay’s CSI initiative, the MiHeart Project is committed to achieving this objective. At the foundation of the project’s mission, MiWay has upskilled over 4000 learners in six different schools across the country through the installations of computer labs.
Upskilling and training, coupled with mentorship and skills transfer makes for the “perfect formula for empowering the youth and introducing them to an industry that offers multiple career opportunities in fields such as underwriting, market forecasting, IT, risk management, financial analysis and customer service,” says Ntokozo.
To this end, the MiHeart Project also features a ‘Leaders in the Making’ mentorship programme which pairs learners with mentors who can provide career guidance, life coaching, knowledge-sharing and skills development. School support is also extended to the MiHeart network of schools to enable the learners to experience education with less needs pending over their paths as possible.
“The Leaders in the Making programme opened my eyes to new opportunities and enabled me to carve my own path. My mentorship network and the opportunities presented to us exposed me to more than just academic growth. I now have a career in the insurance industry, and I am discovering more ways to reach my career goals within MiWay. It’s through the network and ongoing relationship with my mentor that I was able to better understand the insurance industry and find my place,” says Kutlo Mochaoa, MiHeart Alumni and Client Services Agent at MiWay.
As Ntokozo concludes: “Nurturing the youth into career paths in insurance is not a ‘quick fix.’ Rather, it involves a long-term commitment that involves consistent support and ongoing motivation. This is, after all, the best way that we as insurers can ‘practice what we preach’ and apply the same ‘big picture thinking’ for which we advocate.”