Internships are a cost-effective way to introduce a young person to the insurance industry, but many agency owners come up short when looking for potential interns.
Universities, with their guest lecturer platforms and myriad job fairs, are a good starting point.
“Being engaged is not writing a check. It’s going on campus, talking to students and exposing them to our executives and top-performing employees,” says Brian S. Cohen, who--while with Pacific Specialty Group--developed a partnership with California State-Fullerton. “It’s giving guest lectures and speaking at business school functions. It’s making sure we’re there when job fairs occur. It’s supporting schools with scholarship money—even $500 is enough to show a student your good intentions.”
Sending younger employees who look and speak like current students is good practice, but even insurance companies without millennial staff can make a positive influence at a university function. Executives just need to ditch the suit and tie.
“Sometimes it’s not necessarily about how old you are, it’s more what your disposition is,” Cohen says. “When they meet you, are you tired? Do you look old? Do you give short answers?
“It’s important to these students to meet people who have been in their career for a while, so they can see that you’re just as excited as you were when you started.”
Insurance agencies have also found high schools to be an effective, though relatively untapped, source of talent. Communicating insurance career awareness to high school students may be even more effective in solving the talent gap, given that many are still undecided on their future.
That’s just what insurance agencies working with Project InVEST hope to benefit from. A 501(c)(3) organization launched through the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA), Project InVEST has a two-fold mission: to increase insurance literacy among high school students and to communicate the advantages of a career in insurance.
Though Project InVEST made its debut in 1970, InVEST Executive Director Diane Mattis believes the program’s benefits are greater now than ever before.
“High schools now have refocused themselves. They are no longer primarily interested in getting students college-ready—they want students to be career-ready,” Mattis says. “These students are making career choices in high school and we’ve got to be in there as an option.”
Through InVEST, local insurance professionals can visit schools, speak to students about a career in the industry and even offer summer internships and part-time jobs. Students set up mock insurance agencies during the program and get a chance to converse with local agency representatives—and it’s all free for the agency.
Mattis describes the response of students as “overwhelming.”
“Once we get the volunteer agencies and schools connected, both teachers and students are amazed at the different career options within the industry,” she says. “I think it’s a very ‘aha’ moment for them.”
InVEST currently works with 518 teachers in 45 states, and is just shy of 19,000 student graduates. A significant portion of those students have even gone on to a career in insurance right out of high school.
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