The insurance industry is facing a talent shortage -- and it's getting worse. That's according to David E. Coons, SVP of the Jacobson Group, a research and executive search firm serving the insurance industry.

By 2018, 25 percent of insurance professionals are expected to retire, and the industry will need to fill 400,000 positions by 2020 to remain fully staffed, Coons says -- and recruitment and development has not kept pace.Insurance professionals are older and more tenured than the average worker, and a retirement and knowledge gap is growing, Coons adds. 

That's why Jacobson, along with Valen Analytics, InVEST, The Institutes, the Property Casualty Insurers Association, and MyPath, an online aggregator of internship, scholarship and financial aid opportunities, is sponsoring an educational initiative aimed at recruiting young professionals to insurance.

The program, Tomorrow’s Talent Challenge, is primarily aimed at showing Millennials -- people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s -- that the insurance industry has a rapidly growing number of career opportunities. 

[Joe McKendrick asks: Can insurers compete with other industries for tech talent?]

Despite the fact that Millennials make up 25 percent of the U.S. workforce, only about  5 percent of them describe themselves as "very interested" in the insurance industry, Coons cites. In addition, too few of them will have the degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that the industry craves.

“The sheer number of positions the industry needs to fill in the coming years is daunting,” said Kirstin Marr, VP of marketing for Valen Analytics, an analytics technology provider. “In addition to the large number of employees we need to attract, there are marketplace dynamics that are changing the type of employees we need,” she said. To compete in the future, insurers will increasingly need to hire people with STEM backgrounds, and will be competing against other industries for that talent. “Across the board, we need employees that are analytically trained and more tech savvy.”

Disruption of the insurance industry is likely, Marr said, as new and technology-savvy competitors, such as Google, Facebook, Overstock and others, are entering the market. “The jury is still out on what this will ultimately mean for insurance, but one thing we do know is that the DNA of tech companies is 100 percent data-driven,” she adds.

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