Ohio Insurance Industry Works with Higher Ed to Ensure a Future Workforce

Monday, June 3, 2013

When a disaster strikes – a car accident, a fire, or damage from a powerful storm - one of the first places Ohioans call to start picking up the pieces is their insurance company.

Now, Ohio’s insurance industry is looking to fend off a disaster of its own – an unprecedented shortage of qualified workers to replace its high number of retirees over the next five years. Industry leaders from 13 Ohio insurance companies formed the Insurance Industry Resource Council (IIRC) and recently launched the Insuring Ohio Futures campaign, which is spreading the message that a bright future awaits job seekers in the insurance industry.

And who will prepare these future workers? Ohio colleges and universities.


Bridging the Gap

With more than 250 companies and 100,000 employees, Ohio is currently the seventh largest insurance state in the nation. However, most of its workforce comes from the baby boomer generation, which is rapidly reaching retirement age. A recent study by the Center for Workforce Development at Columbus State Community College states that by 2018, Ohio’s insurance industry will need an additional 17,000 new employees just to maintain its current staffing levels.

“Baby boomers formed the foundation for our industry’s success,” said John Bishop, Chairman and CEO of The Motorists Insurance Group and co-chair of the IIRC. “Today we need to solidify those gains by giving a new generation the skills needed for this industry to thrive in the future.”

The impending shortage of qualified workers is not just a local phenomenon – the insurance industry is feeling the same demographic pressure on a national level. Therefore, the solution to Ohio’s shortage of workers will have to be homegrown.

As Brent Maurer, Vice President at Paul Werth Associates and coordinator of the Insuring Ohio Futures campaign, notes, “The long term solution to the Ohio insurance talent gap requires recruiting and training the next generation of industry professionals and therefore the solution is not a matter of simply poaching workers from another state.”


Higher Ed to the Rescue

Ohio’s higher education institutions have already begun to address the shortage. Until recently, none of the state’s 14 public universities or 23 community colleges offered an insurance-specific degree program. But that’s beginning to change.

Earlier this year, Kent State University created a Bachelor of Insurance Studies degree program, joining programs at Clark State Community College and The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business that offer students an option to specialize in an insurance-related field.

“Colleges and universities have a critical role in closing the insurance sector’s talent gap,” said Carol Blaine, who helped launch the insurance program at Kent State. Blaine, who arrived at Kent State following a career at Nationwide Insurance, sees Ohio’s education pipeline as a key component of a thriving insurance industry. “The industry is working closely with higher education to develop the next generation of insurance professionals and ensure that graduates meet the needs of the insurance companies around Ohio.”

More schools are getting in on the action. Franklin University in Columbus recently unveiled a Bachelor’s degree in Risk Management & Insurance. Across town, Columbus State Community College is launching an insurance-related certificate program. Several other Ohio universities and community colleges are planning their own insurance-related degree and certificate programs, while 13 Ohio universities already offer programs for actuarial sciences (for a complete list, visit the InsuranceCareers.org website.)


The Future Looks Bright

The Insuring Ohio Futures campaign is not only spreading the word about the abundance of job openings in insurance, but also the sheer variety of skills that are needed – everything from math and sales to marketing and IT. The campaign is targeting three primary audiences: high school/college students, career-changers, and military veterans.

Kent State’s Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Todd Diacon notes, “Ohio high school and college graduates represent the best chance for filling the 17,000 insurance job openings expected in Ohio by the end of the decade. Thousands of graduates enter the workforce each year, and those with insurance-related degrees have a near 100 percent placement rate.”

Visitors to the InsuringOhioFutures.org website can explore the various types of jobs available and connect directly with industry experts through the “Ask a Pro” feature. The site also allows visitors to take a quick survey that matches their personal skills and interests to potential insurance career paths.

Openings in the insurance sector should appeal to anyone looking for a career that’s both stable and well-paying – in Ohio, the average salary is more than $50,000 annually.


The Industry's "Cool Factor"

The campaign also hopes to address the biggest stigma about the insurance industry, that it’s somewhat lacking in, well… “cool” factor.

Maurer insists this is not the case. “Let me put it to you this way – when that tornado tore through Oklahoma, aside from first responders and National Guard, the next group of people to go in there were insurance reps. If you want to work in an industry that really makes a difference and helps people begin to put their lives back together after a personal or a natural disaster, insurance is a great career to get into.”

For more information, visit the InsuringOhioFutures.org website.

Also, see OhioHigherEd’s Industry Spotlight page for information on schools offering insurance-related degrees and programs.