Insurance agencies looking to expand should consider hiring college interns for the summer. They may just get their next cohort of agents out of it.
It’s no secret that more and more insurance agents are retiring, but this labor shortage looms larger than most agencies and insurers may think. Indeed, over the next two years, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the insurance industry will have to replace 400,000 agents. That’s a lot of openings to fill.
To prepare for the next generation of insurance agents, agencies and insurers need to do the legwork now. By ramping up their Millennial recruitment efforts, for example, they can prepare for a young, digitally savvy cohort of agents to move into key roles throughout the industry.
One great way to attract Millennials who may be interested in insurance is to launch a summer internship program for college students. By giving them the firsthand experience they need to decide whether a career in the field is right for them, agencies can attract top talent that may stick with them after graduation — and get a head start on training them should certain interns become full-time hires.
If you’re wondering how you can get your internship program up and running, begin with the following helpful steps.
If your office needs all the support it can get, an internship program can be the ideal way to manage work and provide college students valuable insurance experience. However, getting things going will take some front-end work.
Research Your Legal Obligations
Review your state’s employment laws regarding the status of interns. You’ll need to make sure you’re in compliance when it comes to minimum wage laws, harassment and discrimination safeguards, and workplace safety. Some states, for example, may require your agency to carry workers’ compensation insurance for interns.
Paid vs. Unpaid
Depending on your budget and local laws, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to pay your interns — and, if so, how much. Again, employment regulations may determine what you can ask paid or unpaid interns to do, so be sure to do your research.
Solidify the Role
Just like you would for a full-time hire, interns will need a detailed job description that spells out their responsibilities, as well as your short- and long-term expectations. Once the role is clearly defined, post the opportunity on career boards such as LinkedIn or Internships.com. Let local colleges or universities know about your internship program so they can spread the word at their career services center.
Many interns and host companies assume that an internship always leads to academic credit. This isn’t always the case, however. Luckily, this isn’t something you’ll have to wade into; whether or not a student receives credit for internships is something that’s typically between the student and their institution of higher learning.
Get Staff Buy-In
Before starting the internship program, make sure your staff is onboard by holding a meeting to explain the goals of the program, as well as how the program will be implemented on a day-to-day basis. If any staff members are willing to work as mentors for your internship program, make sure they have the bandwidth needed to give students substantive attention.
Managing Your Internship Program
Once your internship program is open for business, you’ll have to give interns the time and attention they need to thrive. By investing in them and demonstrating that you consider them integral parts of your agency, you can begin building working relationships that may extend beyond their college graduation.
Hold an Orientation
On their first day, hold an orientation for interns that welcomes them into the agency, acquaints them with your team and your office, and conveys what’s expected of them in their new role. Print out a handbook that includes those objectives, as well as FAQs for easy reference.
Give Them Real Work
Touch base with your staff about the kind of work interns could do that would be instructive for them — and helpful to the wider office. These duties might range from cold-calling prospects to organizing your client database. Giving them real work will make them feel like they’re part of a team. Remember, however, that certain kinds of work require different levels of compensation.
Conduct an Exit Interview
Before you wind down your internship program for the summer, conduct an exit interview to learn more about the experience. What did interns learn from it? Is there anything that could be improved? These insights will help you design a better internship experience the following summer, on top of showing interns who have just finished your program that you value their time and input. Plus, this kind of attention may even land you your next star insurance agent.