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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

In favour of student placements

Summer internships are typically
offered to penultimate-year university
students, and gap-year placements to
those who have just taken their
A-level exams and would like to take a year out
before going to university. Both of these programmes
typically start in the summer months.
University students can also be offered a full year
placement, which they would normally
take up in the year between their penultimate
and final year at university.
Candidates for these programmes usually
undergo an assessment process which is similar
to that for graduate positions. The competition
for attracting good quality graduates is stiff
actuarial firms are not just competing with one
another but also with other professions, such as
banking and other financial services companies.
Why should firms offer placements?
By offering summer internships and placements
you gain first mover advantage. You can
preview the graduate market one or two years
in advance of when it becomes available, and
cherry-pick the best before they are snapped up
by the competition or lost in the hundreds of
graduate applications you receive (see figure 1).
For the selected candidates the placement
acts as an extended interview for permanent
employment. For summer students the placement
period is typically six to eight weeks, and
for gap-year students about six months to a
year. We cannot stress enough how beneficial
this time is for both employer and students:
? Your interns will undergo a similar regime to
graduates. So, if they return to take up graduate
positions they will be familiar with the firm’s
processes, people and culture.
? The junior members of your firm will have
an opportunity to train and coach these students,
which helps increase their confidence
and develop skills that are vital for good project
management later in their careers.
? Students do not require any study support
and would be available for all five days of the
week. None of those pesky study days!
? The summer months are usually quieter than
other months of the year. You might argue that
there would not be enough work to justify taking
on interns; however, this is perhaps the best
time to take them on. Every firm has projects
that they would like to get done when their
departments are less busy, eg doing research,
and testing models and products. Gap-year and
summer students are perfect to take on such
jobs. Also, for those projects that are more
mathematically inclined, you will have
resources who still remember their technical
mathematics (unlike the authors who vaguely
recall the methodology for doing subtraction
without a calculator).
? Work experiences provide candidates with
the opportunity to ‘test the waters’ before diving
in. They get the chance to reflect on
whether actuarial work is for them, and they
can find out if they fit in with your firm’s culture.
You would prefer the student to find out
this wasn’t for him/her during an internship or
gap-year placement rather than as a permanent
? Such experience can be good for CVs.
What next?
At the end of the summer internship or placement
year the employer may offer some or all
of their interns a permanent position when they graduate. It is widely documented in recruitment
journals that the acceptance rates of summer
interns when offered permanent positions
is high. Additionally, the employer will obtain
free advertising among their target university
population as the student will boast about what
a great summer they had working with you.
(Yes we know this sounds odd, but our interns
did this so we assume yours will too.)
At the end of the gap-year placement the firm
may reward successful candidates by contributing
towards university tuition fees. The firm
would maintain contact with these students and
monitor their progress throughout university.
Are you convinced yet?
The authors have spoken to many other summer
interns (a non-representative sample) from
other companies, all of whom have claimed
that they enjoyed the experience and opportunity
that they were given. They also continue
to recommend these programmes to students.
Offering internships and placements increases
the profile of firms and would also be seen
favourably by candidates, universities, schools,
and the community.
And when all is said and done, even if you
pick the wrong candidate you can rest assured
they at least have a fixed leaving date!
The authors would like to make it very clear that the
views expressed in this article are their own and not
those of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, the Faculty or
Institute of Actuaries, or their previous universities.