Jessica Elkin encourages fellow students to keep on top of their learning log to avoid a lot of work later on
Avid readers, you may have noticed that I tend to write a lot about things not happening. Summer, exam revision, studying in general. I give the impression that my brain is rife with inactivity and sloth. (It's not, faithful employer!) Now, I'm not one to be inconsistent, so this month will be no exception.
'WBS' must ring a bell, surely. Weak brain syndrome? Whale breeding systems? Whisky-buying syndicate? Alas, no! It stands for 'work-based skills', and if you're a highly efficient sort then you're probably on top of it already. On the other hand, I know quite a few people who have aced - or at least overcome - all of the exams and are now trying to remember what on earth they have been doing over the past five years.
Sorry, work-based what? What is that?
For the uninitiated, 'work-based skills' is the term used to denote some of the final requirements actuarial students must meet. That is to say, in order to qualify as an actuary, you don't just need to pass all the exams - which is hard enough, if you ask me. You also need to submit a 'learning log' of all your training from when you started your traineeship, as well as a set of essays on various relevant topics of your choosing. You should be assigned an official work-based skills supervisor who will probably be a qualified actuary in your company - he or she will sign off your log and essays and oversee your development as a budding actuary. There is a section about work-based skills on the IFoA's website with more detailed information on all of this.
The work-based skills requirement was introduced in 2004; all members who joined the Institute of Actuaries on or after 9 June 1975 are required to have at least three years' experience of actuarial work before being admitted to the Fellowship.
The idea behind the work-based skills requirement is that the exams are all very theoretical and that practical experience should be gained before one can call oneself an actuary. Otherwise any Tom, Dick or Harry could get IFoA accreditation without ever having practised at all, and no one wants that.
Sounds simple - you must be right up to speed
Personally, I got as far as printing out some example essay questions and circling the ones I liked the look of. I even carried those around with me for a while in case inspiration struck and I had a sudden urge to sit down and pour my actuarial heart out. That's marginally better than nothing.
The problem with slacking is not only the slog of completing all of this work at in one go, but also actually remembering enough to fill in the training log. I do recall an amusing early IT session where a colleague of mine accidentally invited everyone in the firm to an event he'd created, including some jocular narrative that had been intended for another student. But I sense that's not quite what the learning log is for, although it did teach me a thing or two about exercising caution.
For those who either didn't start their logbook right away, or did absolutely nothing until they'd finished their exams, Outlook calendars can be redeemers. A quick search can reveal all the training sessions from yesteryear. The problem, however, is that it will not be immediately apparent what occurred during those sessions.
Another idea is to ask others from the same graduate intake (if applicable), or to simply request from your firm a list of routine training off ered to new starters. These are merely stopgaps though - prevention is certainly better than cure, and starting early would avoid all the hassle later.
Don't wanna miss a thing
If it's already too late for you, then this is not a very helpful student page. Instead, you could pass the message on to some fresh-faced students in a heroic bid to save them. A bit like Bruce Willis in Armageddon when (spoiler alert!) he remains on the asteroid to perish while Ben Affleck escapes. Or, you could sit back and watch with bitter satisfaction as they make the same mistakes you did.
If you're still in the early stages of your road to qualification, however, it might be worth a pitstop to allow you to get on with this work-based fun post-haste.