How might the insurance industry more-effectively recruit top college graduates and post-grads into the business?

That’s the challenge that confronts industry leaders assembling later this month for the Insurance Education and Career Summit, initiated by the Griffith Insurance Education Foundation. The Summit, to be held from Sept. 26-28 in Atlanta, will include insurance company and association executives, academics, service providers and other parties involved with the industry.

For those who have read my columns these many years, you know that one of the recruitment barriers I see is the industry’s reputation among “civilians” (those outside the business). In cover stories, editorials and many public speeches, I’ve urged the industry to confront its image problem and proactively get the message out about the essential role insurance plays in the economy and society. 

Insurance is a terrific business in which to work, and that’s a fact that’s lost on too many young people considering their career options. 

The Griffith initiative is designed to begin a dialogue to tackle this issue head on. What impresses me is that this will be an interactive conference, not just a series of presentations to passive attendees, with an action plan expected at its conclusion. The Summit is merely a first step in what will be an ongoing march to change the status quo.

“Over the next three days you will be asked to help set a new course for the insurance industry,” Griffith says in its letter to attendees. “The Summit is a working session where leaders will engage in dialogue and brainstorming to identify the obstacles and create initiatives with actionable items for execution.”  

Griffith knows the stakes are high, and the goal is to energize attendees with the same sense of purpose and mission. 

“The health and vitality of your company, and indeed the vibrancy of the entire insurance sector, depends on our ability to work toward the shared goal of attracting a new generation to a profession that has given us so much,” says Griffith. “A great deal depends on our ability to attract the great minds graduating today from our colleges and universities.”  

The Foundation goes on to say that “this collaboration to attract the next generation will help this group of thought leaders transcend differences and focus on what is of mutual benefit to them.  We ask that you set aside your competitive nature and any impulse to push a personal agenda.  Instead, we hope that you look toward the common good of the industry by sharing your perspectives, thoughts and ideas.  Remember, each one of you is a vital part of this collaboration.”  

Of course, Griffith isn’t the first or only group within the industry to address this challenge. In fact, one of the points I intend to raise at the event is that we need to identify the work that’s already being done to win the war for talent, so we don’t duplicate effort, waste time reinventing the wheel or miss out on an opportunity to work in concert with others dedicated to the same goals.

However, my hope is that the Griffith Summit (which is being sponsored by Deloitte, among others) will help focus the industry’s attention and galvanize players from across the business to work together to bring top talent into insurance. The time is certainly ripe for such an effort, with job opportunities for young people scarce in our struggling economy. 

If you’d like more information, go to the Griffith website to check out the agenda and sign up to attend. For those who can’t make it, I’ll report on the event in this space next month and provide updates on our progress. I hope to see you in Atlanta!

Sam J. Friedman joined Deloitte Research as Insurance Leader last October after 29 years at National Underwriter, where he was Group Editor In Chief of the P&C Media Division. He may be reached at samfriedman@deloitte.com.