Insurance, Schools, Education and Careers

By Howard Benge, Director, Insurance Museum

The Insurance Museum has been defining the role it can play in the wide landscape of education. It wants to develop a programme that will educate children on the history of insurance, but also, and importantly, to emphasise the place and importance insurance plays today. We also want to encourage children to enter the insurance profession and feel like they are able do that because they are better informed.


Talking to insurers, one thing I have found is that many are second and third generation of families working in the sector. Another common and traditional story is that people fell into insurance by chance. After leaving school young people went looking for a job and were offered one in insurance that paid relatively well, especially in the City. Many such people built successful careers for themselves, representing considerable personal achievement. This offers advancement for many, given the wide range of skills and competencies that are to be found in the world of insurance. Where appropriate they also had the chance to become professionally qualified, through the Chartered Insurance Institute examination syllabus.


Research has shown that there are two particularly interesting factors around choosing careers. First of all, a significant percentage of children have often started to choose prospective careers as early as the age of 10 or 11. We always think that it is the 13 and 14 year olds who are grappling with this question when they are choosing their GCSE subjects. We believe that the Insurance Museum has a significant role to play in bringing the world of risk to younger age groups through targeted school programmes.


The other fact, as already indicated, is that family influence and the wider social world of a child impacts heavily on their decision about what careers they choose. I recall the stories from those insurance professionals who said they were the second or third generation in insurance. Doors may be opened if you have a parent in a certain sector, but a child still chooses what route to go down and the Insurance Museum can help to identify the wide range of skills and opportunities represented by the insurance sector.


So how do we target those groups of people who would not normally choose to enter insurance, and people from a wider range of social-economic groups? How do we influence those early decisions, and get parental buy-in? Most importantly, what part, can the Insurance Museum play in this important area of recruitment and employment?


The Museum can approach this challenge through engagement. A school’s programme can potentially offer workshops that highlight what insurance is, how it works and how it has helped to change the world. For example, when studying the Great Fire of London, 6 and 7 year olds learn about what happened after the Fire: how new houses were built, what lessons were learnt about town planning and significantly how the first “fire brigades” were created. It wouldn’t take much to expand that story and explain that as a result of the Great Fire, the first fire insurance companies were established and set up these fire brigade services. The Insurance Museum is going to feature these developments when it launches its first Virtual Gallery in the autumn.


Similarly, history students in primary and secondary schools study the 19th century, looking at travel, trade and inventions, which were all underpinned by insurance. You could even say that if it wasn’t for insurance and those prepared to underwrite risk, the Industrial Revolution would not have happened. Again, the Insurance Museum will offer workshops and resources for teachers on this with an emphasis on what insurance is and how it worked in the 19th century.


It doesn’t have to stop at history either. Teachers often say that they want examples of how maths is used in the real world. Creating challenges based on historic events, students can become insurers deciding on what to insure, how much to charge through probability factors, understanding of risk and how much they may have to pay out.


Programmes can also look at the future, the changes that global warming is bringing about and how insurance can work with individuals, innovators, and organisations to make the world more resilient. Again, with future Virtual Galleries, the Insurance Museum can focus on these curriculum related subjects and reach schools around the UK.


As for the parental buy-in, the Insurance Museum will engage with many audiences. When the Museum has its premises, it can look to running a family programme during the school holidays and weekends. Interactive and enjoyable workshops will engage children out of the school environment, and they will go away having enjoyed a fun afternoon. The parents will also be there, join in with the activities and even spend some time in the exhibitions. This will give them a deeper knowledge of how insurance works and what careers are available.


Inspiring children, and their parents, early on will make a great difference to the chances of creating a future wide talent pool with people from many backgrounds. It will also offer the chance to those who may have never considered insurance to think about a structured career path and the chance of personal achievement and success.

Insurance, Schools, Education and Careers

July 9th 2022

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