Graduate Recruitment: Pass your course, get your money back

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The Independent Online
SUSAN HEATH graduated in economics from York University in 1991. She joined Commercial Union and now heads a personal insurance section based in Croydon.

'You join a two-year management trainee scheme. In the first year, you go round the three main departments in the branch: sales; services, which deals with policy issue and changes; and claims. In each you do a specific project. That helps you to choose where you want to specialise in the second year. After that you go into a particular job.

'In those years you can move around quite freely. After that the flexibility is reduced. Having said that, we have line managers who swap over, say a service manager becoming sales manager, but that's when they're grooming them for branch management.

'The standard time on the training course is two years. but I've done it in about 18 months. The scheme is flexible, it depends on your performance.

'My present role involves managing the work flow of 11 people, which after 18 months isn't so bad]'

Ms Heath has done six internal one-week courses and is studying for the associateship of the Chartered Insurance Institute. 'I joined CU in September, and sat the first exams in April. I've passed six. You must pass 10, three compulsory and seven of your choice. You initially pay for the books and courses. If you pass, you get your money back, if you fail, you don't. If you pass, you also get a cash reward.

'The job satisfaction is in providing a good service and doing work related to what I did in university. A lot of it is quite technical. A lot of people drift into insurance not realising this, just expecting the management aspect. You have to know both, because if you don't know what you're talking about, you can't manage.'