Veterans and the Insurance Industry: A Mission to Make a Difference

Categories: Corporate & Insurance Services, Success story

This article originally appeared in Insurance Advocate, an insurance industry trade magazine.

At Pearl Interactive Network, we are proud that our company’s growth benefits a mission beyond our own. While our achievements are undoubtedly positive from a business standpoint, they also mean that more and more unemployed veterans are finding work.

The staffing solutions world is uniquely satisfying because, unlike other lines of business, we have the opportunity to provide services for two parties at once. We can focus on providing solutions to employers who greatly need reliable employees and also to a niche talent pool comprised of veterans, disabled veterans, military spouses, and geographically challenged people who can benefit from working at home. Since Pearl’s inception in 2005, it has been important to find the perfect match between a qualified candidate and a job opportunity.

While many industries and companies take great pride in hiring veterans, the insurance industry has begun to embrace veteran hiring like never before. Veterans and insurance are a perfect fit for many reasons.military veteran sitting at desk with computer

First of all, the industry is facing a jobs gap crisis. “This gap developed because the insurance industry is top-heavy with baby boomers who will be retiring in the near future,” said Carol Blaine, director of the Insurance and Risk Management Program at Ohio Dominican University. “Unfortunately, however, companies have historically not had a pipeline in place to recruit new talent.”

A 2014 study by The Institutes forecasts one million employees will exit the insurance industry in the next decade, creating a critical talent gap.

In Ohio, companies and universities are making a commitment to hire new talent to move up and backfill the positions left by the departing baby boomers by adding insurance programs. In partnership with national education partners, Pearl has developed an Apprenticeship Program that delivers insurance talent with actual job experience and insurance certifications.  Employees earn a six-month insurance certification while receiving on-the-job training (OJT) in entry-level contact center positions.  The apprenticeship model, a scalable solution, can be delivered with home-based or client-site agents. We believe with the constant support of experienced coaches and mentors, apprentice opportunities such as this will be optimized for success.

Since 2012, over a half-dozen programs have been created like Pearl’s Apprenticeship Program, but even with these additions, there are not enough new graduates in the field to completely fill the gap.

In fact, according to Blaine, it won’t even touch the gap. This is where veterans come into play. By focusing on the veteran job market, the industry can take important steps to fill the breach.

“Two hundred to 250 thousand service members are leaving the Department of Defense each year and coming out of literally every nook and cranny in the country,” said Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If only a small portion of our service men and women finds positions within the insurance industry, this jobs gap will be significantly smaller.

Another factor supporting the union between insurance and veterans is that many wounded warriors, although they are not limited to these positions can benefit from working at home, which serves as an alternative to brick-and-mortar call centers.

Both OJT and apprenticeships are available to Veterans via their VA education benefits, including the post-9/11 GI Bill. These programs allow Veterans to learn a trade or skill with an employer or union, rather than attending formal classroom instruction. At the end of the training period, which varies by industry, the Veteran typically earns a job certification or reaches journeyman status. During the approved OJT or apprenticeship program, the employer or union generally pays a reduced wage, and the Veteran can use his or her GI Bill benefits to receive a tax-free stipend.

“The program is an incredibly valuable and underutilized resource, but it has been trending upward and created partnerships in a slew of industries,” said Coy.

According to Coy, the Department of Veterans Affairs would welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with the insurance industry and develop an apprenticeship program for veterans to find meaningful work in this field.

“The long-term goal is to ensure that a veteran has the opportunity to grow and utilize all of the wonderful characteristics that our service men and women possess,” Coy noted.

Similar efforts linking veterans with the insurance industry are underway in Ohio.

“A recent US Government study indicates that approximately 250 thousand members of the US military will transition out of the service in 2016, and somewhere between 12 and 15 thousand of them will settle here in Ohio,” said Brent Maurer of the Insuring Ohio Futures program.Insuring Ohio Futures logo

With that in mind, the Insuring Ohio Futures program has actively engaged veterans to show them how the leadership, goal-oriented focus and team-building skills that were sharpened by their military service can translate to a successful career in insurance.

Giving priority to this niche workforce isn’t just about good PR. Hiring veterans makes tremendous business sense. They possess traits acquired from their military experience that every employer looks for in a new hire, whether it’s discipline, resilience, integrity or the ability to work with a team. It is tragic that many of the men and women who fight for our freedom face difficulty assimilating back to civilian life. What’s even more heartbreaking is their inability to find long-term, meaningful employment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. veteran population is now over 21 million. The newest group of vets, who served after 9/11, has reached over three million. According to a study done last year by Monster.com and Military.com, the unemployment rate is eight percent among veterans 18 to 24, compared with 5.4 percent for the nation as a whole. The study also estimated that an additional 250,000 veterans will be looking for jobs each year for the next five years.

In light of these alarming statistics, Pearl has worked diligently to form vital partnerships with various military groups and utilizes strategic ad placement. As a result, we have gained access to more than 28,000 candidate referral sources, and a data warehouse containing more than 450,000 resumes.

While veterans make tremendous employees based on their skills and traits, there are also additional benefits.

Pearl’s average retention rate is about three years, approximately six times longer than the five-month average in the staffing solution industry. This extended retention contributes to significant savings in screening and training costs. A major reason why our retention rate is so much higher than the industry average is that the ability to work from home is simply the best available option for veterans with both mental and physical challenges.

Matthew Dempsey was medically discharged from the Marine Corps in 1989. After suffering additional injuries from labor-intensive jobs he held following his discharge, he was unable to work.

“When you’re a workaholic and all of a sudden you can’t work, it’s major depression time,” he said. “I decided one day, enough is enough. I can roll over and die or get up on my feet. So in 2013, veteran rehabilitation services paid for a computer and desk, and I returned to school, where I maintained a 4.0 average.”

Matt Dempsey, sitting at his home workstation

Matt Dempsey enjoys the flexibility of working virtually.

In late 2013, Matthew started working for Pearl Interactive. He is currently a team leader in our TAS department, which makes services accessible for the hearing and visually impaired. The TAS team works to turn video into written text, create captions, and convert documents so they are accessible to assisted technology devices.

Matthew and his team all work from home in different parts of the country. While they may be in different time zones, they communicate daily through video conferences, phone calls, and email.

“I can wake up in the morning, pour myself a cup of coffee and walk into my office,” Dempsey said. “It’s so convenient, but takes a lot of integrity. I prefer to work in the morning, but others may work in the evenings. It’s up to their lifestyles as long as they’re meeting team goals.”

At Pearl, we are eager to bring this model into the insurance industry and to further our mission of providing veterans with meaningful employment opportunities. For additional information on how you can be a part of this worthwhile program, or to learn more about the services Pearl offers, please email mkorn@pinsourcing.com.