By 2011, it had become clear that trouble was brewing in the Ohio insurance industry. Baby Boomers were retiring faster than jobs could be filled, making a future talent gap seem unavoidable for one of Ohio’s leading economic drivers.
That’s when Gov. John Kasich stepped in and challenged leaders of the state’s largest insurance companies to collaborate on a solution. What emerged was a partnership unlike any other in the country. Calling themselves the Insurance Industry Resource Council (IIRC), leaders of 13 Ohio-based insurance companies teamed up for a common goal: to get more Ohioans into insurance jobs.
“What we’ve built is a program unparalleled across the nation. We are competitors, and we have come together to solve a problem,” said Dave Kaufman, IIRC co-chair and president and CEO of Motorists Insurance Group. “The IIRC is a living example of what we want in our employees – collaboration, commitment, and intentional problem solving. Our partnership with Ohio’s institutions of higher learning is now starting to move the needle.”
Ohio is home to 242 insurance companies, which together employed more than 104,000 in 2015 – 23 percent more than typical for an economy of Ohio’s size. In 2014, the industry contributed $20.8 billion to Ohio’s gross domestic product – nearly 40 percent more than would be expected for an economy of Ohio’s size.
Those numbers are cited in a 2016 IIRC study conducted by Regionomics, which also projected that the insurance talent gap will grow to about 29,000 by 2024 if employment trends continue. Nearly three-quarters of that number are vacancies due to retirements.
While talent gap issues were already known in 2011, companies were working alone in trying to change misperceptions that hindered wider interest in insurance jobs – including the notion that most insurance jobs involve sales. It didn’t help that not a single Ohio college or university offered programs specific to insurance.
The IIRC, which has now grown to 17 companies and associations, decided it needed to do two things – change the industry’s image and create a talent pipeline.
The IIRC’s pipeline strategy has focused on collaborating with Ohio’s colleges and universities. Today, nine campuses offer insurance programs: Bowling Green State University, Owens Community College, Ohio Northern University, Ohio Dominican University, Kent State University, Columbus State Community College, Clark State Community College, the University of Cincinnati, and Franklin University. The University of Akron will offer a new insurance program beginning this fall.
“Communication is the key to filling the pipeline, said Dr. Martina Peng, chair of the Accounting, Finance, and Economics Department at Franklin University. “Industry and education must come together frequently and consistently to ensure that education produces graduates that align to workforce needs. Students who enter the industry can make a big difference in the future – they have to first learn about the many career pathways available in the industry.”
In fact, insurance companies not only need actuaries and underwriters, but also those with investigative, forensic, math, legal, health, human resources, marketing, IT, and communication skills. Additionally, insurance jobs are stable and pay an average of $70,000 a year – 35 percent higher than Ohio’s average private sector annual salary.
The IIRC’s strategy has focused on informing career-changers, veterans, and students of careers in insurance. In addition to sponsoring on-campus events, the IIRC built a jobs-oriented website (http://www.insuringohiofutures.com) that allows interested Ohioans to explore various careers and the path it takes to qualify for them. The site also allows visitors to apply for open positions online.
“With strong support from the governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Insurance, the word is getting out,” said Carol Blaine, insurance program director at Ohio Dominican University. “We’re now taking our messages into high schools so students can start thinking about insurance careers early. The potential talent pool is vast, but the messages have to resonate, especially among young people.”
Carly Fortman is typical of young professionals who want a good career that makes a difference. After graduating with a marketing degree from Bowling Green State University in 2011, Fortman worked in underwriting at Westfield Insurance before joining Central Insurance in her hometown of Van Wert in 2013. She now serves as Central’s learning development manager.
“I’m a millennial, so I want to help people,” she said. “A lot of my friends are teachers or in healthcare. But insurance also is all about helping people. A little over 10 years ago, there was a tornado in Van Wert. The entire community was impacted. If it weren’t for insurance, we could never have rebuilt.”
The IIRC is funded by:
Celina Insurance Group
Central Mutual Insurance Company
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Molina Healthcare of Ohio
Motorists Insurance Group
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company
Ohio Insurance Agents Association, Inc.
Ohio Mutual Insurance Group
State Auto Insurance Company of Ohio
The Cincinnati Insurance Company
Wayne Insurance Group