The Travelers Cos., in partnership with InVEST, a nationwide school-to-career nonprofit program, is helping to improve insurance and financial literacy in students and attract young talent for the insurance industry.
Founded in 1970, InVEST works with more than 500 high schools and colleges to introduce useful insurance curriculum to students. With the help of insurance professionals who serve as InVEST liaisons, students also get opportunities for job shadow events, internships or even careers. For many, InVEST programs serve as their first chance to learn about the insurance industry and discover the breadth of opportunities and careers available.
At Travelers, the partnership with InVEST is overseen by Neal Montgomery, director of field management at Travelers and an InVEST board member. “I am fortunate that Travelers has asked me to be their representative to the InVEST national board,” Montgomery said. “I have been involved with InVEST program locally, working with our local schools for about 13 years now. I have been on InVEST board for seven.”
And every year, Travelers hosts an InVEST job shadow day in Hartford, Conn., called “Travelers Employees for a Day,” which this year was held on Jan. 31. Travelers also provides InVEST internships to high school students in Connecticut.
“I’ve had a chance to have a dozen different interns work with me. We have had interns in numerous other departments. We probably had 30 interns total in the last dozen years,” Montgomery said.
Among the students who took part in InVEST programs, seven have since become full-time Travelers employees. Some joined Travelers after college while some have pursued their college degree while working at Travelers. “It’s been tremendously successful for us,” he said.
Taking Advantage of the Opportunity
One of the Travelers employees who helped in this year’s job shadow day is Brandon Dombroski, an agency portfolio consultant. An InVEST alumnus who participated in the job shadow and the InVEST internship at Travelers, Dombroski understands firsthand how helpful the program can be.
“I try to really take the students through with what they want to do for a career,” he said. “A lot of students, when they think of insurance, they think of underwriters or salespersons. They don’t really see the behind-the-scenes functions.”
A Travelers employee in the market research department shows students around the building during the job shadow event.
“They can relate to the fact that I went to the same school and am from the same area. I went through the program,” Dombroski said, adding that the InVEST program helped him get into college and start his career at Travelers. “I think it really shows what exactly they can do if they take advantage of the opportunity.”
“I would definitely recommend the program to students,” said Dombroski. “It really opens their eyes. It helps them get a better understanding of the functions that they don’t necessarily see. There are a lot of newer functions within insurance that they would find interesting. It also shows them the opportunities that are there.”
While working full-time at Travelers, Dombroski has also been attending University of Hartford full-time. He will be graduating this May. “My plans for after graduation are just to continue working. Eventually I want to go back for my MBA but I am going to take some time off from doing both full time and really focus on work,” he said.
Alissa Parlante, a high school senior and an InVEST intern at Travelers, is another InVEST alumnus who helped with this year’s job shadow event. She had job-shadowed a Travelers employee a year ago and is now working as an intern, working from 2:30 until 5:30 weekdays after school.
“The internship started in July and it’s going for about a year, throughout my senior year, which is great,” Parlante said. “My next step is going to college next year. Hopefully as I start my college career, another opportunity will arise with Travelers.”
For this year’s job shadow program, Travelers had personnel from 27 different departments hosting 62 students and 12 educators from four local schools. Students spent the day shadowing professionals from a variety of Travelers business units, including personal lines, risk control and field management.
“We provided the students with a sense of what those departments do. The students make first and second choice selections of who they would like to shadow, and we do absolutely everything we can to give the students their first or second choice, or something close to what their choice was,” Travelers’ Montgomery said.
“For just about anything you want to do, we have a career for it,” Montgomery said in describing the broad career opportunities available in the insurance industry and at Travelers. “But,” he added, “high school students don’t have that concept.”
“They don’t understand that we’ve got a forensics laboratory to investigate the claims; that we’ve got a claims training center where they can climb on construction equipment and watch us flood buildings to see what happens from flood damage; those that are literary-minded come into our creative services and our marketing department.”
Montgomery said there were also a number of students in this year’s event who were interested in actuarial careers, and they were able to job-shadow Travelers’ actuaries. There were also students interested in sailing and they got to learn from an InVEST alumnus who now works as a yacht underwriter at Travelers.
“We also had students who were interested in the agricultural business,” Montgomery said. “Well, we’ve got an entire department devoted to insuring farms, agribusinesses and livestock. They were amazed that a company 15 miles away from their hometown specializes in this.”
“One of the teachers came up to me,” Montgomery recalled, “and said this is absolutely the highlight of their class year.”