How do we fill the gaps in the team, asks Mark Redfern, director at Searchlight Solutions, who takes the subject of claims as his example....

Quality, experienced and skilled people are hard to find, whatever your business. Whether a Premier League football team manager, or an employer looking for claims staff to fill vacancies, the fact is there is a shortage of supply. People are expensive when their skills are scarce. Quality footballers are in demand, so they are more expensive to attract. So are quality claims handlers.

Large football clubs can invest in youth academies to produce their stars of the future. Early investment will pay dividends later. Not only should this approach be more cost effective, it will produce people with skills where few potential candidates are available. But what about smaller clubs? How can they invest in the future talent they need?

The same might be true of employers, whether they need claims staff, sales staff, or any other quality people. Despite the benefits, the cost of providing training is likely to be a concern for smaller employers, even if the resources were readily available. And what about the wider industry picture?

There is a desire among insurance industry professional bodies to enhance the general image and perceptions of professionalism of the industry. Without this, the industry within the UK could suffer a lack of global investment. Equally concerning is the fact that young people will be less likely to join the industry as a chosen career against industries which invest in people.

A greater emphasis on the value of qualifications and ensuring that qualifications remain relevant will help, but is there more we can do as an industry? Shouldn't we be organising ourselves to develop youngsters. Couldn't we use economies of scale to keep training costs down?

Good quality, technically sound, cost effective training should be readily available for employers who can't easily provide this for themselves. Taking the example of claims staff, shouldn't employers have the option of using short, intensive, courses to help develop a grounding, that can then be used to gain real life experience?

Such training would need to be compatible with professional studies, enhancing the chances of exam success. Yet the prime reason for the training should be to meet the industry's need for more people with the skills employers are crying out for.

This then leaves a huge, untapped, market of potential candidates to fill those in demand jobs. There are large numbers of people with industry skills but not the skills needed for the current demands placed on insurers. Retraining might provide the same solution but from a different angle. It clearly isn't as simple as sending someone on a week-long course and then expecting a fully fledged claims handler.

But if the training is focused, and practical, and delivered by industry experts, then a good start will have been made. What we are doing is investing in the future, the payback will come in reduced recruitment costs in the future.

In response to demands from employers, Searchlight now offers technical foundation courses. Particularly popular are those involving claims skills. We have to start somewhere to bridge the gaps we, as an industry, have allowed to open up. We need delegate based training to share the costs, yet keep the subjects practical and relevant to each employer.

If there are other training companies out there who can do the same, we can reverse the trend of increasing skill shortages in an industry, which is rightly desperate to maintain it's professional image. Bigger players in the market will already know these benefits, it's the smaller to medium size teams which need the help.