Bridging the gap between students and industry

Read­ing time: 3 mins

Actu­ar­i­al stu­dents often grad­u­ate equipped with tech­ni­cal knowl­edge but lack­ing in soft skills and indus­try expo­sure. This stu­dent col­umn by Travis Barr from Monash Uni­ver­si­ty, details what actu­ar­i­al stu­dents can do to get ahead and gain indus­try expo­sure dur­ing uni. 

Actu­ar­i­al stu­dents under­take one of the most rig­or­ous accred­i­ta­tion process­es offered at uni­ver­si­ty. Grad­u­ates of this degree are capa­ble, crit­i­cal thinkers, able to solve prob­lems ana­lyt­i­cal­ly and pos­sess the math­e­mat­i­cal skills nec­es­sary to embark on a career as an actu­ary. While the class­room excels at pro­duc­ing the tech­ni­cal prowess demand­ed by the actu­ar­i­al pro­fes­sion, it falls short in quench­ing the stu­dents’ thirst for indus­try expo­sure. It is this niche that stu­dent soci­eties fill – bridg­ing the gap between class­room and indus­try. With this pur­pose, stu­dent soci­eties fos­ter a more com­plete learn­ing expe­ri­ence for their mem­bers, and bet­ter insight into prospec­tive employ­ees for their spon­sor firms.

The three main ports of access a stu­dent soci­ety can pro­vide both their mem­bers and spon­sors are, speak­ing events, work­shops and net­work­ing events.

Speaking events

Stu­dents are always look­ing for an inter­ac­tive learn­ing expe­ri­ence that moves them out of the text­book and into the real world. Speak­ing events encour­age this by bring­ing stu­dents face-to-face with prac­tic­ing actu­ar­ies where they can learn first-hand the expec­ta­tions firms have of their employ­ees. Stu­dents are afford­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to direct firm-spe­cif­ic ques­tions to those best suit­ed to pro­vide feed­back which ulti­mate­ly aids in their appli­ca­tion process. Firms will find these events offer an infor­mal mar­ket research oppor­tu­ni­ty. Trends in stu­dent con­cerns can help guide future inter­view ques­tion­ing, the abil­i­ty to tai­lor job descrip­tions in posi­tion adver­tise­ments and ideas for cre­at­ing uni­ver­si­ty-focused cam­paigns. On top of this, it is the per­fect plat­form to speak direct­ly to a tar­get­ed sub-pop­u­la­tion of stu­dents active­ly seek­ing employ­ment from actu­ar­i­al firms.

Workshops

Often text­books focus on the­o­ry over func­tion­al­i­ty, leav­ing stu­dents won­der­ing how to apply their new­ly gained knowl­edge in prac­tice. Indus­try-lead work­shops rem­e­dy this sit­u­a­tion. Whether it is an Excel les­son, a tuto­r­i­al on pub­lic speak­ing or an HR-lead mock inter­view, actu­ar­i­al stu­dents ben­e­fit immense­ly from learn­ing how to use a vari­ety of skills and tools com­mon in the actu­ar­i­al field. Fur­ther, these events expose stu­dents to tech­ni­cal and social expec­ta­tions they will encounter in their future careers. Work­shops enable spon­sor firms to assess gen­er­al com­pe­ten­cy of future grad­u­ates and cre­ate a feed­back loop with uni­ver­si­ty staff. Firms can also encour­age prospec­tive employ­ees to seek fur­ther study in key areas through elec­tive selec­tion or self-study.

Networking events

Much of a stu­dents’ aca­d­e­m­ic life is spent in a seat star­ing at text­books and lec­ture record­ings. Net­work­ing events pro­vide a change of scenery by allow­ing inter­ac­tions that hone social skills in a pro­fes­sion­al or semi-pro­fes­sion­al atmos­phere. Events such as cock­tail nights or pok­er tour­na­ments encour­age a more cor­po­rate-styled inter­ac­tion not avail­able in the class­room. Stu­dents can dis­cuss work-life bal­ance, dai­ly sched­ules and receive office eti­quette advice from prac­tic­ing actu­ar­ies. They are also able to con­verse with a vari­ety of actu­ar­ies from areas such as con­sult­ing, life and gen­er­al insur­ance. These nights offer firms the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty for observ­ing poten­tial employ­ees, as stu­dent atten­dees who hav­ing par­tic­i­pat­ed in both speak­ing and work­shop events will be ready to bring their engage­ment with indus­try to the next lev­el. Hir­ing man­agers and prin­ci­pal actu­ar­ies can assess soft skills such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion, dress, and man­ner­isms of prospec­tive employ­ees.

Walk­ing the path of a bud­ding actu­ary is a dif­fi­cult yet reward­ing expe­ri­ence.

Grad­u­ates depart uni­ver­si­ty equipped tech­ni­cal­ly but are often left with lit­tle indus­try expo­sure. By pro­vid­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dent-indus­try inter­ac­tion through speak­ing events, work­shops and net­work­ing events, stu­dent soci­eties are in a prime posi­tion to deliv­er ben­e­fits to both actu­ar­i­al stu­dents and the firms that wish to hire them. Whether a stu­dent is look­ing for direct con­tact with an indi­vid­ual firm, a chance to apply class­room the­o­ry or an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss work­ing life in a pro­fes­sion­al set­ting, stu­dent soci­eties are their best port of call. Like­wise, firms seek­ing a plat­form to pro­mote their brand, assess appli­cant pool tech­ni­cal skills, and observe prospec­tive can­di­date soft skills, need look no fur­ther than their part­ner­ship with stu­dent soci­eties.

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About the author

Travis Barr

Travis Barr is in his final year of a Bachelor of Actuarial Studies at Monash University and tutors a first-year business statistics unit. He serves as president of the Monash Actuarial Student Society and works with his committee to bridge the gap between industry and the student body.

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