Preparing College Students for Careers in Insurance
Cadence Insurance is partnering with the University of Mississippi to provide insurance education to a more diverse group of students across the state.
Demand for talent in the insurance industry is not slowing. With a projected 50% of the current insurance workforce projected to retire in the next 15 years, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s The America Works Report, the industry will have significant talent gaps to fill. With this increased demand for insurance professionals, there is an opportunity for insurance firms and higher education institutions to collaborate on innovative ways to attract diverse talent.
Earlier this year, the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB) approached Cadence Insurance with an opportunity to sponsor its new Insurance Transformation Initiative—a program that aims to build a sustainable and diverse talent pipeline for insurance brokerages.
Over the next three years, Cadence Insurance has committed to contribute $150,000 from the Cadence Bank Foundation to the program.
A pilot program for expanding access to insurance education
Ole Miss, with support from CIAB, launched the Insurance Transformation Initiative as a means to provide high-quality insurance education to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) without dedicated risk management or insurance programs.
The initiative will be a 10-week program with virtual and on-campus courses taught by professors from the Ole Miss Risk Management and Insurance Program (RMI). Participating students will learn about the basics of the insurance industry and complete an internship at a sponsoring insurance firm, including Cadence Insurance. At the end of the program, they will receive a certificate of completion.
“The Insurance Transformation Initiative shows Mississippi college students that there are great job opportunities here in their home state,” says Aimee Kilpatrick, chief operating officer at Cadence Insurance. “It’s designed to tell the story of the insurance industry and the numerous opportunities and career paths within it.”
Cadence Insurance was one of five firms from across the country that were invited to partner with Ole Miss for this pilot program.
“We are proud to have Cadence Insurance as a founding partner in this very important initiative that makes the wonderful career opportunities in risk management and insurance available to a more diverse group of students,” says Dr. Andre Liebenberg, chair of insurance, professor of finance and the RMI chair at Ole Miss. “As a result of the founding partners' financial commitments we are able to remove all barriers for students to take the certificate program, attend professional development events and experience a life-changing internship opportunity.”
Kilpatrick said the company was interested in extending its long-standing relationship with Ole Miss and its insurance program. “We’ve always been impressed with what they're doing in the traditional college education space and were excited to learn more about this new initiative,” Kilpatrick explains. “So right away, it felt like a natural alignment between our organizations.”
The Insurance Transformation Initiative program will be free for participating students, thanks to Cadence Insurance and other sponsors.
Ole Miss has established relationships with the HBCUs in the state and will begin recruiting students for the program in the spring of 2023. The first cohort will take the certificate program in the fall of 2023 and it is estimated that four or five students will be interning with Cadence Insurance in the summer of 2024.
Reaching beyond the Ole Miss campus
Despite the growth that the insurance industry has experienced in recent years, it is still somewhat rare for colleges to offer degree programs specifically focused on insurance. The Risk Management and Insurance program at Ole Miss is one of only 16 programs in the U.S. that has been recognized as a Global Center of Insurance Excellence.
Ole Miss knew that to effectively raise awareness for career opportunities and address diversity issues in the insurance industry, it would need to reach beyond its own campus.
The Insurance Transformation Initiative targets sophomores and juniors from Mississippi HBCUs without insurance programs. Students from all majors are encouraged to participate.
“Ole Miss has purposefully designed a program that can serve a broad range of students,” says Kilpatrick. “Almost any undergraduate major can be applicable to the insurance business. By allowing students from all academic disciplines to participate, students will be able to learn from each other’s unique perspectives.”
The initiative is not intended to take students away from their college or university of choice. Instead, it is designed to prepare students for a career in insurance while allowing them to follow through with their current education path.
Giving students a leg up in the insurance industry
Often, having a foundational level of risk management knowledge is enough for newcomers to succeed.
“The Ole Miss program gives students who may not have access to a full-time risk management program through their home college or university the opportunity to learn about the importance of our industry and the career opportunities that exist,” says Kilpatrick. “In a short window, students can develop a skill set that will make them stand out during interviews.”
Students participating in the Insurance Transformation Initiative will complete similar coursework to that found in an undergraduate risk management program. Kilpatrick notes that the paid internship and mentorship component will be especially instrumental for students’ career outcomes.
“Having that sort of real-world exposure can really give you a leg up when looking for a job,” she says. “It puts everything you’ve learned from lectures and course materials into perspective.”
Upon accepting a job offer with an employer partner, students are guaranteed enrollment in the CIAB’s Insurance Professional School, an early-career designation program offering a comprehensive nine-month curriculum in two modules. It is designed to equip new employees with the knowledge and skills to succeed.
Kilpatrick says she’s excited to show future interns what it’s like to be a part of the Cadence Insurance team. “We’re very proud of our culture,” she says. “Internships like these let us give students a first-hand look into what’s important to us and what we value. We can show them much better than we can tell them.”
Creating a more diverse talent pool
Ole Miss hopes to create a more diverse pipeline of candidates for the insurance industry by providing risk management and insurance education to students from across the state.
“The insurance industry is quite unique in its support of university programs that prepare students for careers in risk management and insurance,” Liebenberg says. “With the support of the industry, collegiate RMI programs have been successful at recruiting and developing new talent. However, an area where we have been struggling for some time is in attracting diverse talent to the industry. Our certificate program is an innovative way to attract a different group of students to the industry.”
In particular, the Insurance Transformation Initiative will focus on recruiting African American students to the insurance industry. Kilpatrick explains that this program will help Cadence Insurance and other insurance firms attract talent that better represents their local markets.
“Our communities don’t all look the same and our clients don’t all look the same—so we shouldn’t all look the same either,” says Kilpatrick.
Cadence Insurance expects to welcome its first group of interns next summer. For more information on the Insurance Transformation Initiative and how you can provide support, visit the Ole Miss website.
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