As South Africa’s public insurer, SASRIA has a special interest in the transformation and professionalisation of the insurance and broader financial sector. SASRIA’s corporate social investment (CSI) practice therefore has a strong focus on tertiary education and professional development in this area. Through the SASRIA bursary programme and the South African Actuaries Development Programme (SAADP), SASRIA helps previously disadvantaged matriculants to access the opportunities they need to reach their dreams and contribute to a prosperous South Africa. The bursaries programmes are complemented by the Insurance Leadership Development Programme (ILDP) which provides mostly black professionals in the insurance industry an opportunity to further develop their leadership skills.
Bridging the ‘first gap’ into tertiary education
South Africa’s tertiary education faces several challenges. Barriers to success are even more pronounced in the financial services sector given the stringent admission requirements for these qualifications and length of time required for one to become fully qualified. Bridging the ‘first gap’ into tertiary education is key and speaks to the integration of students from disadvantaged backgrounds into the higher education system.
The SASRIA Bursary Programme and SAADP provide holistic support to students. This includes robust recruitment, selection and induction processes, with the aim of attracting the right calibre of participants and provision of financial, academic and psychosocial support that students need to succeed.
Bridging the ‘second gap’ from tertiary education to employment
‘The second gap’ – and the final determinant to success in any bursary programme – is the leap from university to employment. Graduates, especially graduates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, often have difficulty finding employment and successfully integrating into the workplace. Decades of experience and best practice show that getting young people into university is not enough and that there is a need for tertiary education programmes to address this gap. The review of SASRIA’s two bursary programmes found that where the programmes had integrated work readiness and work placement interventions, graduates were more likely to find employment. In the SASRIA and SAADP programmes these have been integrated in varying degrees and include interventions such as career counselling, assistance with work readiness (CV writing, interview skills, etc.) and facilitating access to future employers.
Supporting ongoing professional development in the short-term insurance sector
The Insurance Leadership Development Programme (ILDP) was developed in 2015/16 on the back of research by the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA) showing that the insurance industry was not adequately transformed or professionalised.
Implemented in partnership with the Insurance Institute of Gauteng and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), ILDP targets between 25 and 30 previously disadvantaged junior to middle-management professionals in the short-term insurance sector in a course delivered over a period of 10 months. The programme is underpinned by an accredited NQF Level 6 GIBS programme and covers topics such as operations, strategy execution and technological innovation, with the goal of developing the necessary management and leadership skills required to support professional standards within the short-term insurance industry. As at the end of 2018, 71 professionals had completed the programme, with another 25 students expected to graduate at the end of 2019. In the 2019 survey benefits such as improved communication and teamwork, improved quality of work and improved motivation for work were reported as the greatest benefits of the course. The majority of respondents reported an increase in job responsibilities (72%) and a promotion (53%) as a result of having completed the course.
Spotlight on the South African Actuaries Development Programme
SAADP was established by SASRIA in 2003, with the specific aim of developing black South African actuaries. At the time there were 500 practising actuaries in South Africa and just over 900 actuarial graduates, but none were black South Africans.
To address this, SASRIA, through the SAADP, began supporting black students to obtain university degrees in actuarial sciences. The programme also encourages and supports graduates to work in the South African actuarial profession, and study towards becoming qualified actuaries. The programme has grown tremendously since it began and now supports approximately 180 to 200 students per year, from just 19 in 2003. While SASRIA is the founder and anchor funder, several companies now also fund the programme.
SAADP’s recruitment strategy is a comprehensive one, paying particular attention to schools in rural areas and townships that perform well in mathematics, physical science and English. A dedicated SAADP programme manager is located at each of the three universities where the programme is run and serves as the students’ first and primary point of contact for challenges and support. The comprehensive recruitment strategy, as well as on-the-ground support tailored specifically to supporting actuarial students were found to be critical success factors in the programme.
In a survey of almost 40 current and alumni beneficiaries, all respondents rated their experience of the programme as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. Academic, financial and psychosocial support were also rated extremely high, with over 85% of respondents rating these aspects either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. The first-year induction process and support received excellent feedback and gives students a strong start in obtaining a notoriously challenging degree.
At the end of 2018, 390 students had graduated from the programme and an additional 45 students had qualified as professional actuaries. In the survey of 19 alumni, almost all found jobs immediately, with a handful taking between one and two months to find a job. None were without employment.
SASRIA would, however, like to see more of its graduates become professional actuaries.