Recruiting Gen Z through education and internships

Recruiting Gen Z through education and internships

The aging workforce in the insurance industry has been a growing concern for some time now. Many insurance companies are facing the challenge of an aging employee demographic, with a significant portion of their workforce nearing retirement age.

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that insurance professionals aged 55 and older have surged by 74% over the past decade. The BLS estimates that 50% of the current insurance labor force will retire within the next 15 years, resulting in over 400,000 unfilled positions. 

As less than 25% of the industry is under the age of 35, carriers are seeking new ways to attract and retain the upcoming generation of talent – Gen Z. A study from LIMRA and EY shows that 40% of organizations and a third of all employers with over 1,000 employees said that meeting the needs of a multi-generational workforce is a key challenge. Discussions around talent retention for younger generations vary, though many companies have opted for allowing flexible work arrangements, promoting diversity and inclusion, targeted recruiting and mentorship programs.

“One way to combat an aging workforce is that we not only want to make sure that we’re hiring early career [individuals], but we want to make sure we’re transferring a lot of that knowledge from those individuals that are choosing their next path,” said Carrie Martinelli, Selective’s vice president of talent. “We want to transfer every experience that they’ve had, every challenge that they face and everything that they’ve learned. By engaging with the early career and most certainly by hiring interns and trainees, and giving them opportunities to engage with those individuals that are more experienced will benefit us and anyone in the insurance space. “

Selective’s Ignite Internship program is an example. The 11-week program provides an opportunity for college and university students that are interested in different aspects of insurance to learn more about the industry and gain experience in a professional setting. Selective provides interns with networking and mentorship opportunities, leadership training and action-learning project experience across 20 different Selective departments.

“It’s overall a very robust and enriching experience,” said Martinelli. “We have many of our interns that are either rising juniors or rising seniors and then continue on with us and come back for full-time opportunities as part of our trainee program.”

Martinelli said that technology and digital transformation are important to Selective, and as the organization seeks to employ early career individuals, she noted that it is important to continue keeping up with digital trends to best serve their customers. 

“When it comes to the digital landscape, because of the access that both the trainees and the interns get to subject matter experts and leadership inside Selective, there’s always opportunity for them to understand what we’re working on from an information technology perspective with what’s on the horizon, what’s trending and how it aligns specifically to how we work with our customers and our agencies in this digital world,” said Martinelli. “Many universities and colleges we’ve partnered with are starting to infuse a lot of that digital transformation or AI-type of capabilities into their curriculum, and we then are having these great conversations with the interns and trainees when they join Selective.”

Some carriers are actively creating partnerships with universities and colleges. Last year, Coppin State University launched an insurance learning lab with a $50,000 gift from Northwestern Mutual. The gift also contributed towards career readiness opportunities, with Northwestern involved in Coppin’s insurance course provided by the university’s College of Business. 

“Many of my students are really ready for this experience. They want meaningful careers in the discipline. It’s not enough to just get a job and a paycheck. We’re looking for building careers, careers that can lead to advancements in the discipline, and careers that can help them contribute,” said Sadie Gregory, dean of Coppin State University. “At the end of the day, it’s not really about how many hours they work, but it’s about how they can contribute to the organization and their own professional development.”

Northwestern Mutual employees provide mentorship and networking sessions with Coppin students to give advice and build professional relationships with students interested in an insurance career.

“[Gen Z] don’t want to sit in a classroom and be lectured at. They want engagement and active participation, not just in the classroom, but outside of the classroom,,” said Gregory. “This generation wants to give back and not just make it about the dollars they make for the hours they work, but they are looking to be impactful, and they want to effect change.”

Gregory said that she hopes to introduce more insurance opportunities to the university as the industry is “so rich with opportunity.”

“I’m looking to build up programs by doing more things like application practice, community experience and corporate and business partner engagement. And this population of students that we serve expect that – that’s what they want to see and the kind of engagement that they expect,” said Gregory.