ANDOVER’S fastest-growing business is ensuring it continues to thrive with the launch of a degree-level apprenticeship scheme which could prove to be a game-changer for the insurance industry.

Be Wiser Insurance started with just three employees in 2007 in a small office in the town.

Today it employs 535 in five offices in Andover, is about to acquire a sixth office and has spent £1 million on training over the past three years.

It has been in the Sunday Times Fast Track top 100 companies for the past three years.

Now chairman and chief executive officer Mark Bower-Dyke is sharing his recipe for success by creating an apprenticeship to teach schoolleavers how to be the best in the business.

“Although there are 380,000 employees working in today’s insurance industry, it is estimated that fewer than ten per cent are qualified,”

Mr Bower-Dyke told those at the launch of Headstart.

Headstart is an apprenticeship scheme based at the firm’s Andover academy which will give schoolleavers with five GCSEs the chance to have a degree-level qualification by the age of 21.

Passionate about raising standards in his industry, the CEO added: “Our business will only continue to grow if our employees are better trained, we are working to improve our staff and their prospects.

“We love Andover, we have five offices here and we are working to get bigger by being better.

“We can only do that if we are able to train and bring forward the right people.”

Headstart was unveiled at Synergy 2014 – an event specifically directed at Andover and Basingstoke schools to show head teachers and career advisors what Be Wiser could offer school leavers.

Among those who attended were Tony Parsons, head of Harrow Way, and representatives from Winton Community Academy and John Hanson School.

David Gleave Test Valley Borough Council’s economic development officer also praised Be Wiser.

He said: “In recent years schools and businesses have split wider apart, and it’s more confusing than ever for young people with tuition fees and all that business.

“Be Wiser is bridging that gap locally and from the council’s point of view, it’s brilliant!”

Be Wiser has developed a bespoke four-classroom academy in London Street, Andover and will enrol 30 GCSE students who should attain the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) Certificate within their first 31 days. Within two years they should have reached CII Diploma level – the equivalent of three A-levels.

The school leavers’ starting salary will be £12,000, but once they have the diploma they will receive a salary of £18,000, plus uncapped bonuses.

Tony Parson’s said: “Apprenticeships provide a good alternative for our students to consider.”