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Insurance industry is an example of opportunity in Michigan

Last week, the Lansing State Journal reported on the growth of the insurance industry. More specifically, it reported on the growth in programs to support the insurance industry. Lansing is home to eight major insurance companies that generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue annually. The companies’ location in Lansing is no surprise. The insurance industry maintains tight connections to the state legislature.

While the insurance industry may not seem exciting, they’re often on the leading edge of business and technology trends. Rapid growth in the industry has left plenty of employers looking for workers. According to the story, Lansing Community College offers an associate degree in insurance and risk management. It’s the only one in the state with such a program, however the demand for graduates outstrips the supply.

In addition, the industry is bracing for a tsunami of retirements in the next decade. These retirements will impact 4 out of 10 people working in the industry today.

Sounds like an opportunity.

Insurance industry is one of many that need trained workers

This is an example of what I mean when I say that community college administrators need to do a better job of identifying employment opportunities and creating programs to meet that need. Instead of building high quality academic programs that fill these needs, the administrators at Washtenaw Community College are shopping training programs for $12/hour jobs. To attract students, they’re focusing on e-sports teams.

That’s nice. Really, it is. Lots of kids like e-sports, but the truth of the matter is that most professional e-sports players peak in or shortly after high school. For casual players (and by casual, I mean non-professional), e-sports is more hobby than jobby. What will really attract students (and remember, community colleges serve students of all ages) is academic programs that prepare people for financially rewarding careers. That also happens to be what works best for the community.

The insurance industry is not nearly as exciting as e-sports, but it is capable of generating the high-wage careers that people need. There are similar opportunities among industries that are facing a wave of retirements as Baby Boomers exit the workforce. There are also opportunities among emerging fields, like alternative energy technology. These are all squarely within the wheelhouse of the community college.

The WCC administration should be working to identify and develop new academic programs that meet the needs of this area, and the State of Michigan. Granted, it’s a lot easier to push non-credit employer training and gimmicks to attract teens, but that approach doesn’t really serve the needs of Washtenaw County.

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver , via Flickr