Work Experience at APR: The Mini Actuarial Academy
At APR, we believe that work experience opportunities can make a great difference for students deciding whether to pursue an actuarial career. Unfortunately, because much of APR’s work takes place on-site at clients’ offices, we have limited scope to offer more traditional internship or work experience opportunities.
However, every summer we run a ‘Mini Actuarial Academy’ as our way of engaging young people with the profession and offering a flavour of the types of work that actuaries can be involved with, enabling more informed career decisions, and developing skills that should give a little head start when it comes to applying for graduate actuarial roles.
What does our Mini Actuarial Academy Offer?
For a number of years now we have invited a small group of students to our offices for a week in the summer, to take part in a programme of interactive workshops and training sessions covering a broad range of material and techniques across the life insurance, pensions, and general insurance sectors.
At APR, we are well known for the quality of training we provide to our employees. The academy makes use of this material, which we’ve been using for over ten years to train and develop our actuaries, and so offers attendees a high-quality introduction to some of the key actuarial concepts and technical skills that we regularly see in demand from our clients, with hands-on exercises that attempt to mirror real-life workplace scenarios.
As well as covering some key actuarial methods, our training has a strong focus on good actuarial practices, such as transparent model design and sense-checking, which helps to give an idea how a good actuarial student might think about and approach a task (which will almost certainly prove useful for future interviews!).
The sessions throughout the week are run by a combination of APR partners and actuarial staff, who have experience across a range of different sectors and areas of work. The academy offers a great opportunity for attendees to meet a wide range of APR staff and ask them about their experiences and career paths.
As well as benefits for the attendees, we always enjoy the chance to meet potential actuaries of the future and talk about what APR does. Staff taking part in running the academy also enjoy the opportunity to do something different from the usual day job.
Review of the 2020 Mini Actuarial Academy
We held the latest instalment of our academy in August 2020, welcoming seven students at different stages of their university lives to join us for a week. Unfortunately, the obvious challenges of the year meant we had to take the decision to host the mini academy remotely, with all sessions taking place via video calls.
Naturally, this complicated things somewhat. As with all our training at APR, we want our sessions to be open to discussion and debate, and it can be more difficult to create that atmosphere in a virtual environment, where attendees are sometimes more hesitant to speak up. Similarly, it is an intensive week and for APR staff leading the sessions it can be harder to engage with the attendees and get a feel for how the material is being absorbed. Hosting the academy using video calls removes the option of walking around the room and having quick individual chats with attendees to see how they are progressing.
However, there were also some positives to take away from the situation, on top of the obvious benefit of no morning commute. We’re keen for our academy to be more accessible to those outside of London who might not be able to take time away for a week, and the ability to effectively deliver our sessions remotely should help to achieve this. With the current uncertainty, we have not yet finalised the exact format of our next academy, but we’re considering how we can incorporate some remote offering to future academies to make them more open to those who are interested.
Despite the challenges of working remotely, a combination of hard work, and a little patience from all involved while we adapted to the new technology, allowed us to deliver a full programme in 2020 covering a range of key topics, including:
- Discussion sessions introducing different life insurance products and areas of work, along with a more technical look at life contingencies with exercises that require simple cashflow projection models to be built in Excel.
- An introduction to UK pensions, including a simplified defined benefit buy-out valuation and an exercise centred around checking and cleansing pension scheme policy data.
- Discussion of ‘what makes a good actuarial student’ with an APR partner.
- General insurance pricing techniques.
- An exercise to build from scratch a stochastic model of stock market returns to determine the cost of investment guarantees.
In previous years we have also been able to offer attendees the chance to spend an afternoon at a client’s offices, discussing their work and meeting some of their staff. As this was unfortunately not possible this year, we instead organised a number of ‘guest speaker’ sessions, where some of our more senior staff and partners dropped in to share their experiences with the group. This was a great opportunity to quiz some of our finest minds on their careers and the work they have been involved in, and proved to be a very popular part of the week when we surveyed the group for their feedback on the academy.
“I found it really interesting to see how different actuarial careers developed and specialised. Speaking with Gary was particularly useful as he went into extensive detail about what was required from a graduate during their first role, especially in the actuarial sector. Furthermore, speaking with APR staff gave me a real insight into the personal and professional growth opportunities the company provides. Their suggestions about starting a career as an actuary were very helpful”
“It was insightful to hear about the experiences of all these different people and all the varying career paths they have taken. These sessions offered a great environment for us all to get involved and ask lots of questions.”
“I found the Q&As with staff really useful to understand more about a career in Actuarial.”
We also like to arrange a social event as a way for the attendees and APR staff to enjoy some time together outside the office environment. This year’s social event looked slightly different from the usual evening at the pub, but not to be discouraged by lockdown restrictions, our social committee hosted a virtual murder mystery tour over Zoom with everyone playing the roles of surviving crew members of a wrecked pirate ship, which was a good laugh and something a bit different!
Looking back at another successful academy, our thanks go to all staff involved in helping the academy to run smoothly. Particular mentions should go to James Cooper for running the week, from reviewing applications and offering places to arranging all the sessions taking place, as well as to Jack Miller for his excellent hosting of the virtual mystery tour, and of course to all staff involved in leading the sessions throughout the week. As well as this, and particularly given the challenges of this year, a big thanks also goes to all the attendees for their patience and adaptability – for us to be able to put on a good week relies on having students who are engaged, proactive and eager to learn, and we couldn’t have hoped for a better bunch. What really matters to us though, is how the students found the experience:
“I really enjoyed the academy week and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone that is interested in becoming an actuary.”
“I found the data cleaning exercise particularly useful as it demonstrated the type of work that a junior actuary would be responsible for.”
“Before the academy a career as an actuary was something I thought I wanted to pursue as, on paper it sounded like something I would be interested in. However, you don’t really get an idea of what it’s like without actually doing it yourself”
2021 Mini Actuarial Academy: now open for applications
We are excited to now be accepting applications for our next mini-academy, which is scheduled to run from Monday 2nd to Friday 6th August 2021.
We are hoping to be able to revert to our usual approach of hosting the academy at our central London office, but a final decision on this will be made nearer the time. We will keep all applicants informed as and when we decide on how best to deliver the 2021 academy.
Whilst there is no deadline for applications, places in the academy are limited with offers being made on an ongoing basis, so we encourage early applications.