Insurance Industry Is Hiring, But Millennials Don't Seem To Be Interested
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
There has been plenty of talk about jobs during this campaign season. In the insurance industry, there are jobs to be had, but young people don't want to do them. Here's NPR's Yu Sun Chin.
YU SUN CHIN, BYLINE: When Pat Borowski speaks about her industry to college students, she gets this reaction.
PAT BOROWSKI: They kind of just stare at you (laughter).
CHIN: Borowski as part of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents. To the blank-eyed students, she makes this case.
BOROWSKI: We ensure everybody for everything all of the time everywhere. That's a lot of business.
CHIN: The industry has a lot of open positions, and both agencies and companies are looking for people. The field's evolving to cover new markets like drones and identity theft. Borowski says that means they need a variety of skills.
BOROWSKI: Writing code for programming, whether you want to do cybersecurity - at every single level we need technology people.
CHIN: Many agent jobs are open to high school graduates, although they're not as lucrative as those in insurance companies. Their claims adjusters and underwriters earn a median salary of about $63,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But both agencies and companies are struggling with the same dilemma.
BOROWSKI: Just in sheer numbers, there are not enough people in Generation X to replace all the people that are going to be retiring.
CHIN: It's a problem that industry leaders are worried about. They'll have to fill at least 70,000 positions this year and next year, according to The Institutes, a group that helps train insurance workers. Augusta Russell (ph) worked for an independent agency in Connecticut, and he recruits students from a local college.
AUGUSTA RUSSELL: We compete surely with a lot sexier options out there.
CHIN: Like banking and finance, he says. The industry's problem is that millennials don't even consider insurance as a potential career. Many think of it as boring or don't know much about it. Charlotte Hudson (ph) is a sophomore studying finance at Virginia Commonwealth University.
CHARLOTTE HUDSON: My idea of working in the insurance industry is kind of like older men making a lot of money, and there isn't a lot of room for creativity.
CHIN: Many agencies and companies are turning to high schools and colleges to reel students in. They often call on Virginia Commonwealth University as it's one of over 50 colleges in the country with an insurance program. There, senior Prita Mistri (ph) just accepted an offer with Travelers Insurance.
PRITA MISTRI: Fifty-five percent of upper management are eligible to retire, and so the opportunities to grow within the company are just endless.
CHIN: But students like Mistri are the exception. An industry survey last year showed that just 4 percent of millennials interviewed were interested in insurance is a career. Shawn Tubman is the campus recruiting manager for Liberty Mutual Insurance. He says the industry still isn't sending a clear enough message about what it exactly does or offers.
SHAWN TUBMAN: We don't have a, quote, "got milk," campaign within the insurance industry. And that's something I'd like to see us spend more time thinking about.
CHIN: Brian Duperreault is trying to jumpstart that campaign. He's CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group and one of the minds behind Insurance Careers Month, which launched this month. It's an industry-wide social media campaign that's trying to raise awareness about the career.
BRIAN DUPERREAULT: This is the beginning of a long process.
CHIN: He says to reach millennials the industry has to meet them where they are and understand what they care about. So they're trying to emphasize one aspect about the career - service.
DUPERREAULT: From major hurricane events and earthquakes to explosions - in all those cases we take a person's risk and give them some comfort and some reassurance that things will be OK.
CHIN: With a quarter of current workers retiring in the next three years, according to a study by McKinsey & Company, they'll have to make that case fast. Yu Sun Chin, NPR News.
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