Big Ideas for Business
Working with Willis
Supplying the workforce of the future
Willis is recognised as a leading global insurance broker, handling risk management and reinsurance across a wide range of service areas and industries. With offices based across the world, UCS students are fortunate enough to have one of their European offices situated on their doorstep in Ipswich. Mark Parker, MD of Willis Global Services Centres, recently visited UCS to host a guest lecture to provide business students with key industry tips on employability and international business. He was joined by Gary Shoesmith, Technical Training and Education Liaison Director, who told us how the working relationship between UCS and Willis has benefited both parties.
“Establishing and developing a close working relationship with UCS has hugely benefitted our education liaison strategy and undoubtedly helped Willis widen its profile in the local community. We have worked regularly with UCS over the past three years which has led to a widely recognised and highly valued Internship Programme. The number of UCS students undertaking summer placements at Willis has grown from three in 2008 to around 20 in 2011.
Bringing the insurance industry to the minds of students has always been challenging. By visiting UCS regularly and working with students via presentations/lectures we have been able to raise awareness to a much higher level. The internships have worked so successfully thanks to the effort made by UCS lecturers and senior management.
As a result of our engagement with UCS, Willis has benefitted considerably from the skills and personal qualities students have contributed to the workplace during their placements in our business areas. We now have several of our business units requesting students as they have either personally witnessed excellent work undertaken or heard about the students’ valuable contributions via Willis colleagues.
Two students undertaking internships with Willis in summer 2008 secured permanent jobs with Willis in September 2010 after graduating from UCS. The total number of UCS students working with Willis over the past three years will increase to over 30 as a result of a record number of internship applicants for summer 2011.
Willis places considerable emphasis on people with great communication skills combined with obvious drive, passion and commitment. The Willis Ipswich office now handles the full spectrum of business activities ranging from prospecting with potential clients, through to claims handling for increasingly complex risks on behalf of our global client base. We expect students to have undertaken research on Willis and our industry.This information has been made more accessible via regular opportunities for students to visit our Ipswich and London offices.
Numeracy skills have become increasingly important, particularly within our research and analytical departments following growing client demand for catastrophe risk modelling and statistical data. We also seek students with foreign language skills to help support our global business growth. Languages such as Spanish, French, German, Russian and Italian are increasingly in demand.
Candidates applying for business and sales related roles need to demonstrate self confidence, have the ability to listen to clients, understand their business risks and develop solutions which exceed client expectations.
We anticipate our relationship with UCS will develop substantially over the next decade. By accessing first year students at an early stage we can help them understand what is expected of them. Our most successful education partner relationships have largely been the result of identifying individuals who put themselves out to identify employer related opportunities for their students. UCS has excelled at doing this and our dialogue has reached a high level of maturity and understanding. We share common goals in wanting to grow our businesses globally. UCS is already demonstrating a great capacity to develop students with modest past academic achievement towards graduates with first class or 2:1 honours degrees.
Raising student aspiration and attainment levels is a key element of our education liaison objectives and work in the local community.
Looking ahead we would expect UCS to represent an increasingly valuable source of supply for Willis' talent pipeline. We also anticipate the students graduating from UCS to be even better equipped to deliver a valuable contribution to employers at an early stage of their careers. The 'try before you buy' approach we have adopted via internships will greatly facilitate this.”