Florida insurance agents are trying to bolster the industry’s track record in attracting college graduates by employing a new state law that aligns college courses with the state’s licensing requirements.
The insurance workforce development law, passed in 2015, gives the insurance industry an opportunity to catch up with what other industries have been doing for years in training of new employees, according to Jeff Grady, CEO of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents (FAIA). The association helped design the law and is now working on an education campaign to take advantage of the opportunity and draw attention to insurance and risk management careers.
“We are trying to help our industry with a really huge and universally-acknowledged problem of workforce shortage,” says Grady.
Grady said FAIA partnered with lawmakers to pass the law last year, a law that the industry hopes will make it easier to attract new talent to replace its aging workforce.
“We were stunned by how many trades and occupations line up to train their workforce,” Grady said. “The insurance industry hasn’t done a good job there, and [FAIA] just sort of stumbled into it.”
The law allows college students to waive the state personal lines agent license exam if they complete the appropriate insurance courses at an approved Florida college.
“What we have found, and so many other trades and occupations already do this, is if you go before the legislature and show them there are jobs in this field and that you need funding and help to bring people into this trade, you will get support,” he said. “The insurance industry is late to the game.”
Grady said state colleges and the insurance industry have embraced the new law in its first year. Eight colleges around the state offer or will soon offer a two-year associate’s degree in risk management/insurance. The schools include Broward College, Polk State College, Santa Fe College, Seminole State College of Florida, State College of Florida, St. Johns River State College, St. Pete College and Tallahassee Community College.
Grady expects that number could increase to 11 by next year.
Broward College had 20 graduates this year and Grady estimated there are about 150- to 200 students currently enrolled in insurance career courses in Florida.
In May, FAIA released an e-book, “The Short Road to Long-Term Career Success” that it has made available on the website www.riskcareersfla. The book, which is available for free download, includes information on the field of risk management. Grady said the materials were developed for colleges to use to recruit students into insurance education programs.
“The e-book was really well researched to use the proper vernacular to describe the business in a way that will attract millennials so they won’t be turned off by words like ‘underwriting’ and ‘actuarial,’” Grady said. “Instead we are using words like risk management.”
The insurance industry’s difficulty attracting young people has been well-documented, with the reasons ranging from a lack of millennials’ understanding about insurance to not knowing what career options are available to them in the industry. Grady said his group is trying to address these issues.
As part of FAIA’s effort, its Good Works Fund is matching graduates with insurance companies and agencies. But it needs help from the industry to ensure there are enough opportunities for students when they finish the programs.
“We have internships and company members who are ready to accept these folks,” he said. “We have to build it a little more in some places to connect the industry with a college.”
Unlike other workforce development programs for trades such as homebuilding, these college programs are not getting any funding from the state. Through its agent and company donors, the Good Works Fund is also helping to cover the marketing costs for the programs at the schools and provide scholarships for students.
Grady said the association now needs to make sure the approved colleges are offering the highest quality programs and FAIA is prepared to step up its fundraising efforts to ensure that is the case.
“We are not necessarily looking at more schools – now these programs have to be sustained…We have to work really hard to make sure they are sustainable,” he said.
Grady thinks the workforce development program has great potential for the industry and a new generation of employees.
“Not all of them will finish but of those a substantial portion will and there will be more licensees in the state who are better qualified to work in our business,” Grady said. “It’s only the beginning. ”
He predicts that the program could see 500 or more students enrolled at all times in the not-too-distant future.
Source: Insurance Journal