Question by KP Chan on Courses for the Insurance Industry under the Skills Upgrading Scheme Plus at the Legco Meeting on January 12
Since December 2009, the insurance courses in the Government’s Skills Upgrading Scheme have been taken over by the Employees Retraining Board (ERB). There is information indicating that before ERB took over the courses, the number of classes for insurance courses had to be reduced because of the imminent exhaustion of the resources allocated for organising such courses, thus causing enrolment to drop from some 1 800 for the period between April and September 2008 to 148 for the period between October 2009 and March 2010. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) Of the situation of classes convened for insurance courses since ERB has taken over them, whether enrolment has rebounded and whether the authorities can ensure sufficient places for insurance practitioners and members of the public who are interested in joining the industry to enrol;
(b) Whether the authorities have assessed the effectiveness and benefits of the aforesaid courses (including whether such courses could achieve the objective of enhancing incumbent insurance practitioners’ actual working skills apart from allowing them to apply for Continuing Professional Development credits after completing the courses); and
(c) Whether the authorities have assessed how many trainees, who are interested in developing a career in the insurance industry, had joined the insurance industry after completing the aforesaid courses in the past three years, and whether the authorities have offered them assistance?
(a) The Employees Retraining Board (ERB) started taking over “Skills Upgrading Scheme” (SUS) courses in phases since December 2009 by launching its “Skills Upgrading Scheme Plus” (SUS Plus). The first batch of courses taken over by ERB included 16 courses for the insurance industry. ERB set up the Industry Consultative Network (ICN) for the insurance industry in August 2009. The ICN comprises representatives of trade organisations, labour unions and professional associations and advises ERB with a view to ensuring that the courses will meet market demand. In accordance with the recommendation of the ICN for the insurance industry, ERB relaxed the entry requirements for 13 of the migrated courses by accepting non-trade practitioners so as to facilitate them to join the insurance industry.
After going through the application and bidding processes of ERB, six training bodies have gradually rolled out the 16 insurance courses under SUS Plus since March 2010. As at December 2010, 1 163 trainees had been admitted to these courses. Depending on market demand for classes, training bodies may apply to ERB for additional training places under the existing allocation mechanism.
(b) The Government conducts evaluation of SUS from time to time. The views of trainees from various industries (including insurance) and their employers are collected. The results have shown that the trainees and employers were generally content with the effectiveness of SUS courses in improving the skills and employability of trainees.
ERB also places a lot of emphasis on the quality and effectiveness of its courses. The ICNs of various industries advise ERB on manpower demand, training needs, as well as the design of and entry requirements for training courses. Taking the insurance courses of SUS Plus as an example, prior to the commencement of a training course, the training body concerned has to vet the qualifications of its trainers and seek accreditation of the related Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications. All courses have their respective class assessments and course-end examinations. A trainee is required to pass the examinations and attain an attendance of at least 80% before he may be awarded a certificate. Trade practitioners in the insurance industry can obtain CPD credits after completing SUS Plus courses.
ERB undertakes course evaluation to collect feedback from trainees from time to time. As far as the training courses of the insurance industry under SUS Plus are concerned, 98% of trainees rated the courses as “satisfactory” or “very satisfactory”, indicating their general appreciation of the overall arrangements and benefits of the courses. ERB also plans to review the courses in conjunction with the ICN of the insurance industry in the second quarter of 2011, i.e. about one year after the launching of insurance courses under SUS Plus. The review will cover enrolment situation, course design, training mode and overall effectiveness. Existing courses will be revamped and new courses will be developed as necessary in light of the review findings.
(c) As SUS Plus courses, including those of the insurance industry, are part-time courses which target at those in employment, no placement service is offered to trainees. As such, ERB does not keep any statistics on the number of trainees who have joined the insurance industry.
To benefit more trainees with different employment needs, ERB also offers full-time placement-tied courses for the unemployed and those who wish to change jobs. Trainees of these courses receive pre-employment training and placement services. At present, ERB offers a full-time placement-tied course entitled “Certificate in Insurance Agent Training” which seeks to equip trainees with the knowledge and skills for employment as insurance agents. The course was first launched in 2009-10. Altogether 59 trainees were admitted to the course in that year. Of these, 46 successfully secured a job upon completion of training, with 19 working for the insurance industry. In 2010-11, ERB launched two new full-time placement-tied courses entitled “Certificate in Insurance Administration Assistant Training” and “Diploma in Insurance Management” which aim to help trainees to seek employment as supporting personnel or managerial staff in the industry. As both new courses are still at the enrolment stage, statistics on employment situation of the graduates are not yet available.