If this summer was an audition for America’s Got Talent, the 10 interns we welcomed to The Council would have the judges’ heads spinning. Ours still are.

That W8BENE Portal we developed to assist you with the new Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act?

Its homepage was coded in part by an intern. 

Those committee hearings on Capitol Hill you read about in our Council 5 newsletter? Attended and summarized by interns.

And that bi-weekly cyber roundup you may have seen in your inbox? Well, you get the idea.

This is our second year of a truly established program and our interns recognized the time and effort that we invested in them to ensure that their experiences were constructive and worthwhile. Our leadership and management resources team directly oversees the students and their work. Their skillsets and majors were matched with the departments that best fit their interests. In addition to the substantive, day-to-day workload, we conducted professional development workshops and included the interns in meetings and creative sessions. We started a book club, watched World Cup soccer games together, organized after-work group activities and released them on a scavenger hunt as a fun and social way to familiarize them with Washington. Our interns were treated like members of The Council family, and it made all the difference.

I was continually impressed by their enthusiasm, hard work and energy. In addition to their department-specific assignments, they were split up into groups and given five weeks to research and present to our staff on the topic of talent—how brokers, carriers and non-insurance financial services companies successfully (or not) recruit on college campuses, and the differences between their approaches. We specifically asked them to identify how brokerages specifically, should market themselves to the Millennial generation.

Each group provided insightful feedback and tangible tools that we will incorporate into our board’s recommendations to the FAME board at their next meeting at the Insurance Leadership Forum, as we work to enhance and strengthen our member firms’ recruitment efforts in the future.

So much is made of our industry’s inability to recruit and retain talent out of college. Our own research has shown that meager course offerings have a lot to do with that. Some risk and insurance majors don’t even have brokerage in their curriculums. And a 2011 report on Millennial research published by The Institutes, identified “image” as the industry’s top issue needing to be addressed.

Our experience this summer confirmed all of those things. Through no fault of their own, most students share the same stereotypical view of insurance: it’s boring. One student told us “Jargon, like ‘premium,’ ‘deductible’ and ‘reinsurance,’ intimidate most young adults and cause many to shy away from perusing insurance as a profession.” (I told you they were smart).

But if the industry can turn that around—if we can get on their radar and continue to demonstrate the vast opportunities for large scale success—then we would be in prime position to hire a lot of talented young professionals. They’re out there, and they’re hungry.

What we learned over the past 10 weeks is simple: If you truly invest in your program, you will have a positive experience, and so will the students. Time and again, research has identified what this generation is looking for: technology, meaningful work, mentoring and work/life balance. The days of alphabetizing and filing policies may never go away, but it’s important to augment those tedious tasks with relevant real-world experience. It’s the only way to open their eyes to what we do as insurance professionals.

Our interns were treated like members of The Council family, and it made all the difference.

Our goal each summer is to make the internships we offer feel like real jobs and help students understand what our industry is all about. We set out to change their misperceptions and build awareness of the many different paths insurance can offer. We do this because we know America does have talent, and we want it placed in our member firms nationwide. If our internship program can move that needle a little bit, yours can, too.