Pioneers in training in the Swiss insurance sector
What makes apprenticeships at Baloise so special is that trainees are organised into a largely autonomous unit, an "apprentice team". This sees apprentices given responsibility early on with project work, fostering skills of relevance to their future career such as independence and the ability to work in a team.
"I soon realised that there's something special about working here, not just in the apprentice team, but at Baloise in general. You aren't THE apprentice, but a member of a functional team," says Leon Fuchs, a first-year apprentice.
The current team of 20 junior employees from all three apprenticeship years are challenged and supported by four full-time trainers and a team leader.
Assuming responsibility early on and practising independence
The apprentice team is active in several areas of private insurance, with apprentices learning the basics in the first year before expanding on these in the second apprenticeship year in accordance with the skills and competencies required by the desired field. In other words, all private insurance trainees remain in the same apprentice team for the first year, then, depending on their chosen course, they spend the duration of the apprenticeship or just part of it in this team. Trainees have various different methods at their disposal for acquiring specialised knowledge, such as eLearning, gamification or training by apprentices for apprentices.
Nick Marksteiner, a third-year apprentice, says: "In the first year of the apprenticeship I became familiar with a process slightly quicker than the others and was therefore given responsibility for it. For me this meant that apprentices started coming to me if they had any questions about this process. I took great pleasure in this task because this was the first time in my life that I had been given responsibility for something so important."
What's more, so-called agile working methods like kanban are taught right from the start of the apprenticeship so apprentices can apply these in their own projects.
Nick Marksteiner adds: "I think it's great how quickly we are introduced to the different areas, i.e. motor vehicle insurance, property insurance, liability insurance and life insurance. Unlike the lecture-style lessons we had at school, here we learn from examples. This might involve looking at a parked car to learn what damage can occur and when this is covered. And if you can put what you have learned to practice effectively and satisfactorily, you'll be rewarded in the apprentice team, i.e. in the form of responsibility in projects or processes."
After gaining initial experience, apprentices gradually start to take on the overall management of projects. Furthermore, the apprentice team also takes on a supporting role in running the taster days, the organisation of which is completely in the hands of the apprentices, as well as managing their own social media accounts on Snapchat.
Leah Bourquin, a third-year apprentice, says: "As part of the apprentice team we have the opportunity to attend interviews and assessments for new apprentices and practical trainers and to ask the applicants questions. This is a very valuable experience for me because soon I'll be at the end of my apprenticeship and then I'll be the applicant. The fact that our estimation of the applicants is taken into account and that we are involved in the decision-making process is a significant sign of trust. And that's exactly what I love about the apprentice team."
Securing the future of apprenticeships
This novel form of training in the apprentice team offers a variety of advantages. While the joint apprenticeship starting point ensures a uniform level of training, trainees can also discover their strengths and interests and expand on these in a targeted manner as the apprenticeship progresses. Not only do the freedoms and trust extended to the trainees reflect modern educational models - moving away from instruction in favour of independent knowledge acquisition - but they also motivate trainees and contribute significantly to their satisfaction as young employees at Baloise. By using this balanced mix of independence and support, the individual development of trainees and the adoption of modern working methods, Baloise wants to secure the attractiveness of apprenticeships on a sustained basis and reinforce the dual education system in Switzerland.
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