It was a leisurely weekend on October 25, 2015. Hu Jia was sitting up at her desk, with her phone in her hands and her eyes on the screen, waiting anxiously for the results of the national comprehensive insurance business skills contest.

For students from the finance major, the annual insurance skills competition, which is a comprehensive evaluation of the qualities needed by insurance professionals, has as much importance as the college entrance examination. Before this, the best result the Open University of China (OUC) achieved in this competition was the second group prize in the national finals in December 2014.

The National Comprehensive Insurance Business Skills Contest for College Students is organized by the National Vocational Education Teaching Instruction Committee of the Financial Industry. The first competition launched in Xi’an in 2015 with 40 institutions from around the country and over 160 contestants, making it one of the largest skills competitions in the finance and insurance major. The contestants are required to complete all of the operations from insurance acceptance to claim settlement for life, car, and property insurance within 150 minutes.

In China, the insurance industry is a growing industry in the 21st century. A huge population base and an aging population have provided favorable conditions for the development of the insurance industry in China. With the development of the insurance industry, the pool of insurance professionals is constantly growing, with a total of nearly 6 million employees in the insurance industry. Zhou Yanli, Vice-Chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), said at the first China Insurance Industry Talent Development Summit meeting that, "In the future, it is required not only to speed up training of employees, but also to improve their quality, which will require the industry to reform its talent training model and give full play to the market's role in human resources allocation.   The national comprehensive insurance business skills contest for college students was a comprehensive way to showcase the development of the insurance major in China. Li Mei, Vice President of the Finance School of Xi’an Eurasia University, responsible for the contest in 2015, said that, "The contest aims to evaluate the results of the reform and development of college students in the insurance major across China, displaying the technologies and career capacity of the insurance business; promoting teaching reform in the insurance major; and inspiring industries and companies to pay attention to and participate in teaching reform so as to comprehensively enhance the training of college insurance professional and the capacity of the insurance service.”

Spending Four Years Grinding Down a Sword

A message popped up on HuJia's phone screen, "We’ve won the national first prize!" She jumped up from her chair happily, with her roommates watching. However after the excitement, she felt regret. A week ago, Hu Jia was still a main competitor for the candidates of the contest. However, because she failed the last mock contest before the finals, she lost the chance to enter the finals in Xi’an. Of the 13 people preparing to enter the contest with her, only four made it to the finals.

The centralized training for the 13 contestants started during the summer vacation. However,in the eyes of instructors Deng En and Xing Jianping, they had been preparing for this national first prize for the past four years.

Their department established the concept of“promoting teaching, a good learning climate, enrollment and employment by competition, centring on students, and building a quality brand” early on. It was the first time the Department had found out about the finance professional skills contest organized by the National Financial Vocational Education Teaching Instruction Committee. Due to a lack of experience and preparation, the task assigned by the Department in 2012 was to watch and learn from others. Deng En and Xing Jianping went to Panyu Vocational College without the students to learn and watch the contest and they brought back a full book of notes. 

In Zhengzhou,2013, the Department sent contestants to participate in the contest for the first time. They brought back third prize.

The contest in 2014 was held in their home city of Changsha and the players were awarded the second group prize.

At the beginning of 2015, the two instructors began to plan the details including selecting the candidates and sending them for training, knowing full well that any further improvement would net them first prize. 

In comparison with the hundreds and thousands of students from veteran colleges, such as Liaoning Financial Vocational College, Zhejiang Financial Vocational College, Insurance Vocational College, Shenzhen Information Vocational College, and Panyu Vocational College, it was difficult to select qualified candidates from the 140 school students majoring in finance in the classes of 2014 and 2015. Moreover, the students born after 1995 didn’t show any extraordinary capabilities and lacked self-confidence.

The Department decided to explain the contest to the students as soon as they entered the college, so as to create an atmosphere of anticipation. This attracted a number of volunteers to join the contest. After the selection, a list of 13 candidates was determined.  

“We introduced a competition mechanism in the preparation stage. The students that were entered for the finals were the winners from several rounds of selection.The final decision was made just a week before the beginning of the contest”, Deng En said.

For one of the contestants, Ning Chunmei, during the weeks before the competition, almost all her free time was spent on centralized training in the distance education building. The training would go on until 10pm. "A lot of student signed up at that time. We were under a lot of pressure. We had to keep working out our methods and keep training.”

Pan Lanyan was the only one who had taken part in the contest before. “During the training, I shared my experiences with the team members to enhance our team strength. I first joined the contest out of curiosity. However, the second time I took part, it was so I wouldn’t feel any regret.”

The contestants who were finally selected by the Department included Liu Li, Ning Chunmei, PanLanyan, and Zhou Jieming.

Finals in Xi’an

On October 24, the four players and two instructors boarded the high-speed train to Xi’an and started their campaign tour.

At the gathering of elite colleges, Hunan Online School was in conspicuous and even ignored by most. The schools on everyone’s lips were the experienced financial vocational schools.

Zhou Jieming is a typical young guy born after 1995s. In the beginning he entered the contest because he thought it would be fun. He began to accept formal training only ten days before the contest. However, because he is fast at inputting characters, his thinking is quick, and his analysis of the subject materials is comprehensive, he was lucky enough to be selected. Nevertheless, Xing Jianping worried the most about him. When asked if he felt nervous before entering the playing field, the boy said “I am so nervous that my legs are ‘shaking’!”

 “I felt a little bit nervous during the contest, especially when I heard the sound of tapping coming from the keyboards of the players either side of me. However, I slowly entered a calm mental state. Arithmetic is not my strong suit, so I decided to disrupt the order of the questions and finish the text-based questions first. By establishing a sense of confidence and adjusting my mindset, I was able to answer the questions smoothly. When I finished all the questions 20 minutes ahead of time and found the other contestants on either side were still buried in their papers, I felt quite a sense of achievement.” Liu Li scored 269, which is a high score in this competition.

The competition was held in the computer room and the instructors were asked to wait outside. The only way to find out the competition result was the real-time ranking list shown on the big screen.

During the 150 minutes of the contest, Hunan Vocational College of Network Engineering was always the leading group, which aroused sidelong glances from the competitors from time to time. “Our college was the dark horse but finally we fought our way out and our scores ranked second at the national level.”

“When the judges announced the list of winners, our excitement was difficult to express. When we heard the name of our college and our own names announced, the excitement felt like we had won RMB five million. At that time I thought that I had lived up to all the effort I had made over the past few months, and the direction and encouragement of the instructors,” recalling the final moments of the ceremony, Ning Chunmei felt very excited.

After returning to the college, the winner's names continued to appear on the LED screen in the teaching building and on the homepage of the college website. 

In response to the students who wanted to learn from them,they said: “We should give ourselves confidence. We don’t feel inferior to others because we are junior college students. Each of us has our own strengths and areas we specialize in.”

Director of the Department of Economic Management, Chen Xiaobin, said that the competition scores for major including finance, business administration, and accounting were the result of increased teaching reform by the Department. He said that the Department of Economic Management had recently strengthened its exploration of teaching reform and training for students’ skill capacity. It has also introduced a series of systems, including “Management Methods for the curricular responsibilities of course teachers in the Department of Economic Management” and “Administrative Provisions for Course Assessment Management”, to reinforce classroom teaching management and integrate the training of students’ skills into the teaching plans and courses, so that the teachers and students can both be fully prepared. This not only fits the requirement of the random inspection of skills, but also lays a foundation for the skills competition.

At the staircase on the west side of the fifth floor, there is a temporary office separated by plywood walls. This is the place where the contestants had their centralized training. The desks where the contestants debated intensely are now covered with dust, with four or five computers lying silently on the desks. The former fervent scene has become history. 

By Liu Jiao,Hunan RTVU