zurich_Logo_4c [Konvertiert]Zurich Insurance Group plans to launch a U.S.-based apprenticeship program in a bid to identify new blood for the industry and develop their skills.

Plans call for launching the program in 2016, with administrative support from Harper College in Illinois. The goal: to have 100 apprentices in the program by 2020.

Zurich said it will use two things as the model for its new program: a pre-existing apprenticeship program it already has in Switzerland, as well as the country’s national apprenticeship system.

Zurich’s Switzerland program has trained more than 230 apprentices and high school graduates so far. The carrier said that 94 percent of those who completed the program found jobs within Zurich. As Zurich explains in the program announcement, two-thirds of Swiss graduates enroll in vocational training programs that combine work experience with higher education for 230 different professions.

Mike Foley, CEO of Zurich North America Commercial and chairman of North America, dubbed the Zurich Insurance program the “first of its kind in the U.S. insurance industry” with its reliance on apprenticeships.

“Our experience in Switzerland has shown us that apprenticeships are a very powerful way of developing core business competencies and inspiring young people to take on new challenges,” Foley said in prepared remarks.

The Switzerland insurance giant’s efforts to attract new, younger talent to the industry comes as P/C carriers in general have been looking for ways to do the same thing.

Last October, for example, a multiple carrier/insurance agency effort came up with MyPath, an online platform designed to help students and other young adults explore their career options within insurance and risk management. The Institutes funded the initial rollout, with partners including Liberty Mutual, State Farm, Munich Re, LIMRA, USAA, Chubb and Gen Re, among others.

Individual carriers such as the Philadelphia Insurance Cos. have pursued their own initiatives as well. Philadelphia now has a summer associate program that gives college students a 10-week opportunity to gain hands-on experience and learn about the insurance industry. Philadelphia President and CEO Bob O’Leary said his company regularly hires people from the program and that it has also helped improve retention rates for younger employees.