Thousands of insurance jobs opening

The insurance industry is not only one of the largest in the state, it has big potential for future jobs.

Between 2013 and 2018, more than 17,000 jobs will open up at Ohio-headquartered insurance companies. That’s the estimated number of jobs that will need filled in the next five years, mainly due to baby boomer generation retirements, a commissioned study shows.

And Clark County’s second largest employer is the insurance company Assurant Specialty Property, which has 2,000 employees.

To put the 17,000 job openings in perspective, that’s about how many people work now at the four largest insurance companies based in Columbus — Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Grange Insurance, State Automobile Insurance Group and The Motorists Insurance Group, said John Bishop, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Motorists.

Bishop and his colleagues at 13 Ohio insurance companies are collaborating to address the talent gap, and formed the Insurance Industry Resource Council to tackle the issue. Bishop co-chairs the group, a public-private partnership in collaboration with Ohio Department of Insurance and trade associations.

The insurance council recently launched efforts to raise job awareness.

“We didn’t feel our industry in the past has done a very good of explaining the types of jobs and just the large number of jobs that are available,” Bishop said.

Ohio is emerging as a national insurance capital — competing with other centers in Hartford, Conn., and Des Moines, Iowa — as the seventh largest insurance state by employment of more than 100,000 workers at 256 insurance companies, according to the insurance council.

Ray Rafferty, Assurant’s vice president of Springfield Service Center operations, said the company hasn’t seen the effects of retirement yet, most likely because of its rapid growth. The business, which sells insurance products and services primarily to mortgage lenders, has expanded from 400 employees in 2002 to 2,000 workers in 2013.

“We are looking for a variety of different positions,” Rafferty said. “The majority are related to insurance processing and the customer care contact center. But we have positions here from IT and perspective quality control project management.”

One of the problems with recruiting people is getting over perceptions that insurance is boring.

Job needs are changing at insurers, too, requiring higher skills and paying more. Insurers need less paper file clerks, for example, and more information technology specialists and data analysts.

A common misconception about insurance careers is the majority of positions are in sales, according to the Insurance Resource Council. Many job opportunities include positions such as claims adjuster and investigator, underwriter, actuary, customer service and other positions.

And there’s always a need for new sales agents.

“We can generally find good support people and administrative people,” said Andy Bell, a partner at the local branch of insurance agency Brower, which has about 25 employees. “What we have a hard time finding are good sales people.”

He said the company looks for people who already have experience in sales, or at least have the personality to do sales and call clients.

“Everyone needs insurance but it’s tough to sell because it’s intangible and it takes a lot to sell that product,” he said.

If the 17,000 pending insurance job openings can’t be filled in Ohio, the risk is that businesses might move someplace else that can supply the talent, said Bishop of Motorists.

To prevent that from happening, the insurance industry council is promoting jobs by focusing on three groups of people — students, people changing careers and veterans.

“The talent gap can’t be filled just by recent graduates,” Bishop said.

The insurance council has launched a program and related website called Insuring Ohio Futures. contains information about insurance career paths and companies.

Also, new certificate and degree programs in insurance risk management will be introduced this fall at Columbus State Community College and Kent State University.

Both are “foundations of insurance” programs, the first of which is aimed at entry level customer service and beginning claims-type positions, said Cheryl Hay, director of Columbus State’s Center for Workforce Development.

Foundations of Insurance II will begin in the fall of 2014, and will expand on the first course to prepare people to fill a claims adjuster program.

“We can build education programs, but we can’t create interest to drive people to want to be in these programs,” Hay said.

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