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BFIS struggling to fill internship places

A local internship programme set up to help Bermudians get a leg up in the insurance industry is having a hard time finding enough interested students.

For more than 15 years, the Bermuda Foundation for Insurance Studies (BFIS) has provided scholarships, mentoring, internships and career guidance to students seeking employment in Bermuda’s insurance industry. Their aim is to ensure that over time, Bermuda-based insurance companies have a pool of well-educated and prepared Bermudian staff to draw from.

But this year, organisers tell us they just don’t have enough applicants.

“It’s an incredible opportunity, but for whatever reason, we just don’t seem able to get students to sign up for it,” said Jane Bielby of BFIS.

She said information on the internships has been on their website and www.bermudascholarships.com for months. But despite that, an advertising campaign and a looming deadline of March 30, they still feel the need to spread the word about the benefits of the programme.

“The thing is, every single student who participates, at the end of the internship will turn around and say, ‘Wow. That was just the most fantastic experience.’ They all benefit hugely from it,” Ms Bielby said. “They get to network with the kind of people who are quite likely going to end up employing them so it’s an opening into the industry for careers.”

Each year, BFIS selects 12 students for internships in Bermuda, Chicago and London. This year, due to the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee however, they were unable to secure housing for students in London, so they will instead send four of the students to Atlanta, four to Chicago and four will stay in Bermuda.

To qualify, applicants must be Bermudian or PRC holders in their junior or senior year of undergraduate studies in business administration, accounting, economics, math or IT. They must also write a short essay expressing why they wish to participate in the internship programme and what they hope to get out of it.

Ms Bielby, the internship programme administrator says former interns have found it to be an incredible opportunity and many end up getting hired afterward.

”Students come in to the programme knowing little or nothing about insurance and at end of it, are able to say, ‘Wow, what a valuable learning experience.’ One student who participated three or four years ago said to me, ‘I learned more in the space of three weeks than in an entire year of classes’, so that, I think is a very telling statement,” she said.

“It’s putting theory into practice. By the time they’ve been through a dozen companies, they’ve heard from brokers and underwriters and actuaries all the different people that make up an insurance company then obviously, it’s bound to have that kind of impact. It’s like a huge immersion course very intensive. So at the end of two or three weeks, they are going to come out far wiser certainly than when they went in.”

When asked why she thought there have been so few applicants, Ms Bielby said it’s a combination of factors. “One definitely is a lack of awareness,” she said. “I think another thing is the students are gung-ho to find summer employment so this two or three weeks of course cuts into that. What they fail to realise is that the benefits of participating in the internship far outweigh any financial consideration. Most students will take a job for perhaps $500 a week. So, for the sake of $1,000 for a two-week internship, the benefits far outweigh what they might be losing in terms of pay.”

But what about students who, in this tough economy, feel they can’t miss out on the opportunity to make money in a summer job to pay for tuition? Ms Bielby says over the years, they’ve found many students are supported in their decision to take time away from work to participate in the internship.

“Most of the employers are very supportive of BFIS and have been so for years. And there’s a possibility that some employers will actually give the students paid leave to participate because it’s in their best interest as well if the student is going to come back to work for them at some point, they recognise the value of the internship.”

And while the internship itself is unpaid, there is a stipend. “We pay all air travel and accommodation for the students going overseas and we cover the cost of food etcetera. Here at home, the Bermuda interns also get a small stipend to pay for any out of pocket expenses such as lunch and so forth.”

While the deadline to apply is this Friday, March 30, the BFIS says if students can get their applications in by early next week, they will be considered. They hope students don’t pass on this opportunity that could open doors for their future.

“Students get to network with industry professionals and quite often, they do get into the industry. It open doors for them because down the road when they’re actually applying for jobs, that’s quite often when the employers will say, ‘oh yes I remember him or her as an intern’, so it is a very viable opportunity.”

Details on the internships available can be found at the BFIS website at www.bfis.bm. Applications can be made through www.bermudascholarships.com.

Jane Bielby of BFIS

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Published March 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm (Updated March 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm)

BFIS struggling to fill internship places

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