Zurich to Add U.S.-Based Apprenticeships to Educational Program Offerings

By Denise Johnson | January 30, 2015

Zurich North America’s President of Programs & Direct Markets Kathleen Savio recently took part in the President’s SelectUSA Investment Summit roundtable. Discussions focused on establishing better apprenticeship opportunities in the U.S.

According to Brian Little, head of Human Resources for the global insurer, the purpose of the summit was to look for ways to improve business opportunities in the U.S. and to provide a more welcoming environment to foreign business.

Zurich was one of just seven business leaders of Swiss-owned companies operating in the U.S. that met with U.S. cabinet members and Swiss officials at the White House.

The company was selected, according to Little, because it is familiar with global best practices having been in the U.S. for over 100 years. It was the first foreign insurer to do business in the U.S., serves 170 other countries, employs 60,000 people globally, and employs 8000 in the U.S.

Currently, Zurich does not offer an official apprenticeship program in the U.S. Little said the company offers internships and just out of college programs for underwriting and claims. Those programs entail nine weeks of course work coupled with a year of working with a manager and mentor. The company also offers tuition reimbursement and certification programs, like CPCU, as well as in-house educational programs. Every employee has an individual development plan that he/she discusses with their supervisor and with human resources, Little said during a podcast interview with Claims Journal.

The insurer would like to replicate the apprenticeship program offered in Switzerland. According to Savio, Zurich employs 75 individuals in the three-year program, which provides participants an insurance-focused training certificate. More than 90 percent of graduates from the most recent program found employment with Zurich.

Little said that Switzerland has very little unemployment largely because the country employs a dual vocational system. Compulsory formal education ceases at the ninth grade level and students can elect to continue on or choose a vocational process through an apprenticeship program.

The motto of the Switzerland apprenticeship program is to “nuture and challenge.”

“Zurich considers the training of apprentices an investment…in the future of the company and then also in the communities that we do business in,” Little said.

In addition to Savio, the following attendees took part in the discussion:

  • Swiss Vice President and Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann;
  • U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Susan LeVine;
  • U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker;
  • U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez;
  • Senior Advisory to the President Valerie Jarrett;
  • Director of the National Economic Council Jeffrey Zients;
  • CEOs and senior executives from Alevo Group, Bühler, Kudelski Group,
    Nestlé, Novartis, Pilatus Aircraft, and Reha Technology.

The 2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit, scheduled to be held March 23 and 24 in Washington, D.C., is expected to attract more than 2,500 participants.

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