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Insurance companies seek to close widening industry deficit

Insurance employee shortage

POCATELLO, Idaho - Insurance companies are facing a shortage of qualified people who want to work in the industry, and the need is growing.

Idaho CPCU Society director and Farm Bureau Insurance underwriter Zerin Buchanan approached Idaho State University along with several other insurance industries and the Bannock Development Corporation to discuss ways to close this gap in order to offer better qualified insurance professionals to local consumers.

"Most people who work in insurance just fall in, stumbling into the industry, because they know someone who says, 'hey, you better come check this out,'" Buchanan said.

So now this fall, ISU's College of Technology will offer a series of courses to students who are interested in pursuing a career in the insurance industry.

"We really tried to tailor this so that a person graduating from our program really knows what they are doing. Consumers have a need for educated professionals and the industry has a need for good talent and so our hope is that by bringing this into the classroom, we can provide a little better quality education in this field," Buchanan added.

Ultimately, ISU had the give the 'okay' in order to make this happen. 

Director of ISU's College of Technology Stuart Summers said these courses are a great way to help provide the services that are needed, not only in the region, but also in the state.

"One of the missions of the College of Technology is to meet the industry needs in our region and our state," Summer said. "That is where this insurance technology program comes in. We have a lot of employers in this area looking to hire graduates that have a certain set of skills."

Summers said this is currently being offered as an experimental program to determine how many students will enroll. 

Buchanan said it should take about three year

Buchanan said this industry is facing a tremendous talent gap, more than any other industry. That's due to a number of reasons, more specifically due to the fact that the babyboomer generation who currently holds these jobs are all starting to retire. That, combined with the fact that people just tend to overlook this industry in general when they exit college and start pursuing careers.

He said by the time the year 2020 rolls around, he estimates the industry will need to fill roughly 400,000 insurance-related jobs throughout the nation. Locally, he estimates a 27% increase so we will need to fill 2,500 jobs by the time 2018 hits the Pocatello-Chubbuck region.

Buchanan also noted he estimates there to be about 1,000 jobs in the industry available in the Pocatello-Chubbuck region alone which includes every sector of the industry.

The courses will cater toward every aspect of the industry including: Property casualty insurance, homeowner's and auto insurance, commercial/business insurance, exposure to health and life insurance, sales, underwriting, claims adjusters, investigators, human resource officers, advertising agents, etc.

Buchanan also thinks sending more qualified graduates into this workforce could potentially entice big insurance companies, such as the All State call center, to move into town.

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