We’ve spent much of the year focusing on tech-heavy structural changes in our industry (and our world, for that matter).

The way we live, work and function seems to change almost daily. And technology is a big driver in the way our clients operate, forcing brokers to look at risk in different ways. As we move forward, inching ever closer to machine learning, AI and automation in virtually every risk scenario, there will be even more need for and value placed on expertise, service and solutions.

To keep pace with this evolution, it is critical for commercial insurance brokerages to invest proactively in their leadership and talent development. As the gig economy expands and the war for skilled talent escalates, our industry must find new and creative ways to recruit for strategic advantage by filling our pipelines with specialized skills in all levels of our organizations.

The challenge for us is overcoming our industry’s longstanding struggle with brand awareness and reputation. This challenge is nothing new, yet it remains a significant problem (check out the article penned by our summer interns on INTERNal Perspective). Our interns surveyed and interviewed their industry intern peers (perhaps some of your own!) and the results confirm what we’ve started to uncover in recent years: the experience of an internship is instrumental in shaping students’ opinions of brokerage, and we must take new approaches to recruiting and marketing to millennials.

Successful internship programs serve both the goals of the students and the needs of the participating firms. Students are exposed to the business with real office and job-specific experience, gain new professional contacts, explore company cultures, and in some cases, earn course credit towards their degree. Firms get short-term temporary help and a chance to observe and evaluate for long-term capital planning, the ability to expand their sources for recruiting new talent, and the opportunity to shape the course of study for future generations.

For these reasons, we restructured The Council Foundation three years ago to focus on collaborating directly with the internship programs of our member firms. During this time, the Foundation has invested $1 million in scholarships for standout industry interns who were nominated by the brokerage firms at which they worked. Our mission is to help build the brokerage workforce of the future, and the results and feedback we have received about this program are increasingly positive.

We know that the next generation is looking for challenging and creative work. They want good-paying jobs, work-life balance and the opportunity to make a difference in their community. Our industry offers all of these things, and the Foundation’s scholarship program allows young people to gain real-world experience working for a brokerage…while helping them manage their sky-high student debt.

The scholarship program is yours to use. If we need to market in new ways, promoting a chance at earning a $5,000 scholarship is not a bad way to start. Talk to others who participate in the program and ask them what it’s like to notify their top interns that they are receiving a substantial award towards their college tuition. The stories are heartwarming and the competition is stronger each year. And if your firm does not yet have an established internship program, reach out to us. We have a toolkit to help jumpstart your efforts.

The current risk landscape is evolving and not slowing down. Customers and clients have high expectations and demand more of your time. We need employees with diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences and fresh perspectives. We need graduates who can specialize in data and analytics, technology, sales, problem solving, relationships and all other aspects of our industry. As the role of the broker changes, so too, should the way we recruit and develop talent. Implementing a structured internship program is one investment you will not regret.