It’s no secret that insurance companies across the United States are seeking ways to attract young professionals to an industry that is often perceived as stodgy and boring.
One way the insurance industry hopes to focus the attention of potential new recruits is by declaring this month as the inaugural Insurance Careers Month.
Some companies have internship programs for college students, but others, such as Travelers, work with school-to-career programs such as InVEST to get the word out to high school students and their teachers. This initiative aims to bring awareness about the insurance industry and help recruit the next generation of insurance professionals.
On Jan. 29, more than 150 students and educators from five Connecticut and Massachusetts high schools were able to get an inside look at Travelers as part of the national InVEST program, which is in more than 600 high schools and colleges across the United States.
The program, founded in 1970 at Hollywood High School by the Independent Insurance Agents of Los Angeles, started out educating students so they could become better insurance consumers. Over the years, it has expanded to also teach insurance agency and company operations and encourage students to pursue careers in the industry.
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Students and teachers learned first-hand how claims are processed and policies are underwritten. (Contributed photo: Travelers)
Working through insurance scenarios
At Travelers, students spent the morning shadowing professionals from more than 30 business areas at Travelers, including risk control, information technology and Travelers Claim University, among others.
The participants worked through various insurance scenarios in which they acted as underwriters and independent agents to buy and sell policies with their classmates. This provided a basic understanding of insurance while the job shadow day at Travelers provided a real-world experience to reinforce concepts learned in the classroom.
Through Travelers’ partnership with Arlington, Va.-based InVEST, students are able to learn more about the breadth of opportunities and careers available in insurance, and Travelers is able to help attract new talent to the industry. People don’t often realize the many career options that the insurance industry has to offer. The job shadow event and the InVEST program show the students firsthand the industry’s many career possibilities.
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Students participating in the Travelers job shadow day chose from 39 business areas to work with. This group of students from the 2016 InVEST job shadow is standing outside one of Travelers’ Mobile Claim Offices. (Contributed photo: Travelers)
By the numbers
This is the 15th year that Travelers has hosted the InVEST job shadow event, explains Neal Montgomery, national director of field management for Travelers and an InVEST board member who has been involved with the program at Travelers since its inception.
Throughout Travelers’ 15-year history hosting this event, more than 1,000 students have participated. Over the years more than 30 students have interned at Travelers through the InVEST program, and several have worked with Montgomery, to his delight.
“The first year we hosted the InVEST job shadow event, we had about 50 participating students. The following years averaged between 70 and 80. This year was our largest event yet, with more than 150 students and educators participating from five schools throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts,” Montgomery said.
The first couple of years that Travelers hosted the event, students could choose from 15 business areas to shadow. Gradually, the program grew to average between 20 to 25 business areas. Last year, 30 business areas participated, which was up to 39 this year. “Sixty-two employees volunteered as hosts — that is, the folks who bring the groups of students to the various business areas to shadow — for the event this year,” said Montgomery. “Four of this year’s hosts were former interns and InVEST participants. Three hosts are current interns and InVEST participants.”
High school juniors and seniors are typically the attendees, but Travelers encourages any underclassmen who may be interested in the InVEST program and careers in insurance to participate as well.
“We were able to show the students that insurance is really about helping people,” Montgomery explained. “We have six catastrophe response vans around the country that we take to the site of disasters, for example, a town that’s been struck by a tornado. That allows our claims professionals to start assisting our insureds within days if not hours. The students were able to tour one of the vans and get a sense of what we do and how we can help.”
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A group of students from the 2016 InVEST job shadow inside one of Travelers’ Mobile Claim Offices learning what goes into responding to a catastrophe. (Contributed photo: Travelers)
What did the students think?
Charline Carrasquillo is a senior at Joseph P. Keefe Technical School in Framingham, Mass., and this was the first time she participated in the job shadow event. “It was a great experience and definitely made me want to work in insurance. I was able to learn about careers in hospitality and event management at a company like Travelers, including what goes into planning the Travelers Championship and other important events.”
The biggest attraction for many of the students was the technology they got to see firsthand, Montgomery said. “We were able to show them the wizard behind the curtain, and demonstrate that insurance isn’t boring.” The students were fascinated by the criminal investigative services Travelers provides to its clients, helping to solve crimes and discover fraud schemes.
Another “wow” was the digital marketing team, noted Montgomery. Using a tracking system the students could see real-time analytics of how effectively Travelers used social media and digital marketing — not something they expected.
Two current interns also participated in the program from the carrier side this year. Lemoñia Schroeter is a senior at East Hartford High School in Connecticut. This is her first year interning at Travelers through the InVEST program and helping to organize the job shadow event. “Through the InVEST program, I have been able to learn about many different aspects of the business world and have been exposed to a variety of career choices,” she said. “It was through the program that I was able to get my internship at Travelers and put what I learned in the classroom to the test. I would say that I am more college ready now than I could ever be.”
Deepa Naraine, also a senior at East Hartford High School, is in her second year interning at Travelers and helping to organize the job shadow event. “Through my involvement in the InVEST program I was able to get an internship at Travelers,” she explained. “The skills I’ve learned through my internship are skills that I will be able to use throughout college and a career. I’ve learned the importance of networking and time management, and have grown to communicate effectively with associates and confidently handle situations.”
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The job shadow program wrapped up with a keynote address by Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade, who told the students: “Insurance can be more exciting than you think. There are many opportunities if you’re interested in math, including actuarial and underwriting roles, but there are also a significant number of communications, marketing and sales careers. There are just so many aspects to insurance and you touch people’s lives every day and make a difference. It’s a much more exciting field than people expect.”
Commenting on the InVEST program, Wade added, “I think one of the things that is so interesting about this program is that you get the chance to be exposed to the insurance industry while you’re still trying to determine what you want to do in life. I think that’s an incredible opportunity. There are so many different aspects to this industry and just about any interest and college major can apply.”
Montgomery is passionate about the insurance industry and the InVEST program. He urges all insurance professionals to get involved with InVEST or a similar program to showcase what insurance has to offer the next generation.
“Nine of the 30 interns who were with us through the years have come to work at Travelers in different career positions,” he said. “It’s a great way for getting millennials to understand the breadth of opportunities in the insurance industry.”
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