Outreach Activities at the CIA: an Enriching Experience



By Joseph Gabriel, FCIA

An interesting Sherlock Holmes quote, from The Sign of Four, summarizes well how I envision the actuarial profession: "My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere."

As such, my tenure as staff actuary, education with the CIA, never ceases to bring challenging projects and activities—way beyond what I ever expected when I joined the CIA about two-and-a-half years ago. Of the many tasks that fall under my responsibility, outreach activities allow me to act as an ambassador to the profession while promoting the richness, thoroughness, and utmost reputation of actuaries in Canada.

University Accreditation Program

I have the privilege of meeting university students during the annual CIA tour of the 11 Canadian accredited universities. These visits occur at the beginning of the fall and winter terms and provide the opportunity to inform first-year students about the CIA: its role, responsibilities, the University Accreditation Program (UAP), and other relevant information about the actuarial profession. It is a tremendous opportunity to connect with our future members: interacting with young and eager minds that want to learn about the endeavour that is the actuarial profession. Candidates inquire about all aspects of the profession, whether it’s on UAP, qualification requirements, the numerous actuarial organizations in North America, employment opportunities, and the worldwide portability of the FCIA designation.


UAP External Examiner Process

With the end of the academic year, I also have the chance to perform the audit of the accredited universities through the external examiner (EE) process. EE visits occur annually during May and early June and consist of an on-site audit of each accredited university over one to two days. The CIA recruits FCIAs who preferably have experience in education. Each EE is assigned one or two universities, and is accompanied by one of the CIA’s staff actuaries, either Chris Fievoli or myself, to ensure consistency from one university to the next.

During the visit, documentation is examined to gauge exam appropriateness, the breadth of material coverage, and compliance with CIA requirements. The marking of papers is checked for consistency in how marks are acquired or subtracted between different levels of students. Any issues are then discussed with the accreditation actuary, instructors, and relevant university representatives. The goal of this dialogue is to ensure that the university is fully aware of the CIA’s preferred practices and requirements, and to allow the CIA to learn more about the university’s internal quality control processes. Though the requirements specify that the grades in accredited courses must be the result of at least 80 percent of formal examination, the visit also allows the CIA to witness the variety of evaluation methods, namely state-of-the-art computer-based examinations encompassing a balance of theoretical and applied material. 

Career Fairs

Another way of promoting the actuarial profession and the CIA is through career fairs. On May 12, I had the honour of attending the Forum des métiers 2016 (2016 career fair) at Lycée Claudel in Ottawa. This major event included no less than 85 different exhibitors of widely diverse professional background. Neurologists, obstetricians-gynecologists, lawyers, police officers, audiologists, journalists, physiotherapists, and of course—an actuary—had the opportunity to interact with over 200 students in the process of navigating their professional path. Various universities and institutions were also on the premises to promote their programs, such as HEC Montréal, the University of Ottawa, and La Cité college.


The CIA booth generated a lot of attention, from curious teenagers stumbling upon the word actuary. I don’t recall how many times I was asked "Excuse me sir, so what is an actuary?", but it was a pleasure exposing students and their parents to the tremendous opportunities and incredible sense of achievement carried by the profession, from qualification to day-to-day work experience. I made it clear that dedication and hard work came with the territory; however, students were not surprised with the fact that no reward comes without effort. It was also very interesting to see other professionals inquire about actuaries! I even had the pleasure of explaining the qualification process and career applications to people such as teachers and optometrists.

Back to School Project

For the second year, the CIA is running its Back to School project that brings actuaries to high schools across the country in order to create student awareness of the profession. The intention is to create greater interest and to motivate more students interested in math to take the path to becoming an actuary. After a successful run last year, 18 volunteers reached over 1100 students. This year, 26 actuaries interested in volunteering with the project have contacted the CIA. So far, six presentations have been completed by four actuaries to an audience of over 150 students. In addition, several other presentations are booked for this fall. Part of the presentation is solving the Million Dollar Problem that gives students a chance to win an iPad Air 2. We are still looking for volunteers to help inspire the next generation of actuaries, so please consider volunteering.

Clearly the CIA is very active in promoting the profession through various initiatives, and each day and event unfold in new challenges. As I often tell my director, Alicia Rollo, "Never a dull moment!"

Joseph Gabriel, FCIA, is the CIA’s staff actuary, education.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires