Investing in Youth for Our Industry’s Long-Term Sustainability
Every business can make marked change by investing in the next generation of young professionals – especially in our industry. Like any business, we have to plan for the future.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about USLI’s College Help Program because I think young people are often overlooked during their college careers with regard to what contributions they can make to a business, and I know we can do a better job of engaging them and channeling their energy and ideas. The effort we put into enhancing the work experiences of our young people today will set our teams and our companies on a positive trajectory for many years to come.
Over time, we’ve fine-tuned our College Help Program to ensure that it is meaningful and creating pathways for young professionals to learn and develop. The program is not an internship program; it’s not just a nice thing to do for college students. But it is something that connects us with youth, and, in doing so, they emerge as real contributors within our workforce.
Once we started looking at college students the same way that we look at full-time people, we started getting traction with our program. We now have roughly 130 students at any given time, from various colleges and universities around the country, who work alongside our full-time people and make a significant impact each day. We’ve been able to scale the program because we started engaging this next generation of professionals by investing in their growth and development, while, at the same time, many of them are able to earn academic credit for working at USLI. We just want to show them that we care; in return, they step up to the plate and want to know the “why” and the “how” of our business processes.
College students aren’t necessarily focused on the “what,” but they’re excited to know we’re looking out for their best interests and that we’re willing and ready to teach them and coach them. Teaching them technical and soft skills is critical toward their development. We offer special classes for College Help students to attend: time management, resume writing, insurance fundamentals, sales, networking and much more. They also participate in USLI University Sales and Leadership Degree programs. This way, they have valuable professional experiences to add to their resumes and have learned valuable skills that will help them succeed.
When we interview students for a position within the College Help Program, we’re not looking for students with a specific grade point average, a risk management major or a long list of volunteer activities. We hire students from a broad range of majors with a broad range of experiences because our philosophy is that we can teach anyone the insurance business. We just want them to be excited, to contribute to a team and to take the tools we give them and invest in themselves. Our focus is on finding the right people for our culture and connecting with them to build a pipeline of diverse student talent for the future.
Also, because of our Qualified Educational Assistance Plan, students can worry less about college debt and focus more on getting the experience they need to land a great career. Using an IRS tax code, we set aside part of their earnings while they’re working for us, tax-free, and mail a check to their university’s financial aid office to pay down their student loans. Again, we want to invest in these young professionals and assist them so they can feel like they’re starting off on the right foot when they graduate college.
You may be thinking – how can we do this? Who has the time to train college students? What if they leave? Is it worth it? My answer to the last question is a resounding yes. The effort we put in to investing in young people truly makes a difference. Whether it’s reaching out to a few of your local colleges and universities to develop a pipeline of interested students or creating a training plan for when you do hire a college student, it’s important to start now.
Our College Help students change and shape our company into something even better every day; they challenge us and bring a new perspective. There are even opportunities to hire these young professionals after having prepared them for the workforce. I encourage you to invest in the future – young people are a critical part of the future of our industry.