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Career Night

Students and employers provide insight about key issues surrounding recruitment at the Mohawk College Insurance Industry Night

Hiring and retention continue to be growing issues in the insurance industry. Although many employers are looking for candidates with a minimum of five years’ experience, this pool of top talent will diminish rapidly over the next five years as senior managers approach retirement. Thus, employers will have no choice but to look for potential hires elsewhere.

Graduates from college and university insurance programs offer one possible solution. On March 22, Canadian Insurance Top Broker headed to Hamilton, Ont. to investigate Mohawk College’s annual Insurance Program Industry Night.

Students enrolled in the two-year insurance diploma program at the McKeil School of Business at Mohawk are invited to attend the event when they are in their fourth semester. The event provides an opportunity to meet representatives from insurance companies, adjusting firms and brokerages in the hopes of gaining employment once they complete their education. Employers that attend must have positions to fill. A number of brokerages set up tables, ranging from regional firms to the local offices of Aon and Hub.

We asked students what they’re looking for in a potential employer, and also asked employers what key qualities they look for in candidates. Many Gen-Y students stated it’s important for them to work for a company that is involved in the local community, and one that will invest in their training. Mature students and career changers said they were attracted by the high rate of successful  placements. Meanwhile, many of the employers attend the event each year and have hired numerous Mohawk graduates in the past.

Students

Michael Kristolaitis, president, Insurance Club, Mohawk Student Association

At 121 members, the Insurance Club is the largest student club within Mohawk. Its goal is to help students with their academics and facilitate opportunities for employment. Kristolaitis is president of the club, but insurance wasn’t his first career choice. After getting laid off as a securities installation manager, Kristolaitis worked at Primerica in the life insurance sector. However, it wasn’t the right fit, so he enrolled in Mohawk’s program and feels he finally found his calling. Kristolaitis was recently hired at Aviva Canada.

“I was attracted to Aviva because of their community involvement. The team environment when we went to job shadow at Aviva was incredible. As a graduating student, the cash has to be there. What Aviva offers as a benefit plan and a starting salary, vacation, it’s for me. Aviva is a great company, world known, it’s a brand name and a great place for me to start.”

Patricia Edwards

Edwards had a career in the administrative field before taking a CIP course and deciding insurance was for her. She favoured the Mohawk program because she could get her education completed more quickly. Edwards is looking for an employer that offers a team environment and is community-focused.

“I love a challenge—I like to be busy. Also, you can expand into so many different areas [in insurance]. I’m going to start with claims and see where that leads me. I like interacting with people and helping them, and the investigation [side of claims].

Jonathan Seguin

Growing up, insurance was regular dinner table talk for Seguin, whose mother worked at Dan Lawrie Insurance for 15 years. He says he likes sales and is good with people, so feels he would be a natural broker. He worked at Hub International prior to enrolling at Mohawk.

“I want [an employer] to be interested in my professional development—CIP and RIBO-licensing [courses]. I want to see they’re committed to me as much as I’m willing to commit to them. I want to see stability in the company.”

Mimi Abera, public relations, Insurance Club, Mohawk Student Association

Abera assists with the job-shadowing program the Insurance Club offers. This year the one-day program offered eligible students the opportunity to shadow executives at Elliott Special Risks, Chartis or Aviva. Ten students are selected per firm and about 70% of them get hired, according to Abera, who was in the psychology program before switching to marketing, and finally insurance.

“I heard about insurance through friends—I didn’t even know they had a program at Mohawk. But then I heard about [this]100% job placement rate, recession-free [industry], and I thought ‘okay, let’s try this out.’ Commercial lines on the adjusting side interests me. I want to work for a company that has training courses, especially where they put you with senior [executives]. What I expect from my employers is just a chance. If you have a great training course then we will definitely put our efforts into it.”

Employers

Breckon Husband, Aon Canada

Over the last five years, Husband says they’ve hired grads from Mohawk’s program for the Hamilton, Oakville and Toronto offices. He says the recruiting department will follow up with everyone that drops off a resume or business card during Industry Night.

“We want to be able to take a pause and then go back again, look at the resume and really try to find that gem that maybe you overlooked. We’re in an industry where for every three people retiring, there’s one coming in. The greatest need will always be in commercial sales. Finding someone who is comfortable and professional is still the number one need, [as well as] being able to find good sales people that are enthusiastic and willing to do the work that it takes.”

Adam Veldpaus, Cowan Insurance

A 2005 graduate from Mohawk’s insurance program, Veldpaus confirms that career nights work because that’s how he landed his first job.

“We’re a big supporter of the Mohawk program. At this type of event we are looking for someone friendly and knowledgeable, that they understand and they do have some interest. We’re looking for someone that we could see going to the next stage.”

Jennifer Osborn, Dan Lawrie Insurance

While looking to fill spots in both the sales and service ends of the business, Osborne’s impression from this year’s Mohawk career night is that students are open, ambitious and many are interested in the sales aspect of insurance.

“As an employer you need to be out there to make sure you’re connecting with graduates, so that if something happens and you’re in need, you have a database that you can go into. Students should come with an open mind, be confident in what you bring to the table, and know that everyone here is interested in talking to you.”

Elaine McCormick and Dave Minard, Cunningham Lindsey

The adjusting firm has attended this event for a number of years, always hiring a handful of candidates for its two-year training program, which allows new hires to partner with a mentor and learn the ropes. After training, they become independent adjusters and can work on their own.

“We’re looking for people who have already committed to this industry and are working towards their CIP. We’re looking for people with personality—you want people to fit into the environment. Last year we hired five people from this event.”

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New Program Launch

The success of Mohawk College’s insurance diploma program has piqued the interest of other post-secondary institutions. Sheridan College’s Mississauga, Ont.-based campus is partnering with Mohawk to launch the same program in fall 2012, using Mohawk’s course materials and offering the Mohawk diploma.

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Copyright 2012 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the April 2012 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine.

Transcontinental Media G.P.