Anyone who’s a regular reader of our magazine–most recently in the January 2011 cover story, “Avoid the retirement steamroller with young recruits“–knows we’re invested in promoting insurance as a viable career path for the next generations.

And we’re not alone. For years now, we’ve been highlighting the efforts of everyone from trade association young agent groups, carriers and everyone in between to attract, promote and retain Gen Yers.

Unfortunately, all these great efforts, considered individually, might just be as effective as chipping away at a mountain with a toothpick.

For more than 60 years, the Griffith Foundation has been promoting the study and teaching of risk management and insurance. In 1990, the Griffith Insurance Education Foundation began focusing on national insurance education programs by working with academics and funding insurance and risk management programs at colleges and providing scholarships for students. Today the group even works on the K-12 level to educate kids about insurance as part of a broader financial literacy movement.

But even this worthy group has recognized that its best efforts, considered alone, aren’t as effective as a coordinated plan would be.

That’s why the Foundation is hosting “A Collaborative Effort to Engage the Next Generation,” an insurance education and career summit, September 26 to 28 at the University of Georgia in Atlanta. Foundation Director Jason Terrell wants the event to do for insurance what coordinated recruiting efforts have done for accounting and other industries: create a set of best practices to educate and attract young people to the industry.

The meeting has four goals:

  1. To provide a unified voice for industry on engaging the next generation
  2. To create a common blueprint to move forward on education and recruitment
  3. To coordinate an education initiative
  4. To leverage existing resources toward this effort

The Foundation is currently reaching out to CEOs in the property-casualty, life-health and trade association world and so far has gotten commitment from State Farm, Geico, Aflac, New York Life and others, Terrell said.

Although the event will feature traditional summit events, including keynotes by Bob Hartwig of III, its main purpose is for participants to brainstorm solutions to the problem of our industry’s aging workforce.

The effort takes nothing away from the good work already happening in the industry, Terrell stressed. He pointed to RIMS’ engagement of high school and college students, Big I’s InVEST program, and the myriad of carrier internship programs. But all these efforts would have more heft if they were coordinated: for example, the Foundation has been discussing the feasibility of a central industry database for internships and job openings, perhaps leveraged from a similar database used by InVEST, Terrell said.

A central concept is to enhance the industry’s image. “The accounting industry has rebranded itself over the last 10 years, as have teachers. Insurance needs to do the same,” he said.

James R. Jones, executive director of the Katie School of Insurance & Financial Services at Illinois State University and a blogger at PropertyCasualty360.com, is on the front lines of K-12 outreach, agrees.

“Before you can educate people, you have to change the image by getting past the idea that we’re just product pushers instead of solution providers. It helps to address the image itself, and the earlier you can address it, the better.”

Jones said the industry’s biggest challenge in attracting young recruits isn’t a lack of trying, but perhaps of too many different efforts. “Every association and industry organization sees the need to engage the next generation. We have a lot of resources, but many are going in different directions. We need to pull in the same direction and determine strengths.”

For more information about the Insurance Education and Career Summit, contact Jason Terrell at 614-880-9870 or go to www.griffithfoundation.org/summit.