At Lawrie Insurance Group, a senior commercial producer recently celebrated 15 years with the company. The employee launched his career after graduating from Mohawk College’s Insurance program and then benefited from Lawrie Group’s professional development opportunities. It’s a journey that Bob Lawrie, CEO of the full-service brokerage based in Hamilton, Ont., has proudly followed. But, interestingly enough, it isn’t exactly unique. That’s because Mohawk College graduates make up 50 per cent of Lawrie Group’s staff. The staggering figure, says Lawrie, is a testament to the benefits of creating strong partnerships between industry and higher education.
“Insurance is a dynamic industry that evolves and the demand for talent has never been so strong,” says Lawrie. “The connectivity is critical. When we are connected, good things happen. When we know each other, it benefits both of us. Having access to future leaders ties us to an institution like Mohawk, especially because there is an alignment of core values (such as passion, integrity, and excellence). It also helps to keep the pool of talent to develop in our own community.”
A relationship that spans two decades, the partnership between Lawrie Group and Mohawk has become multifaceted. Beyond hiring graduates, it has ranged from Lawrie Group providing feedback to the college via participation in Program Advisory Committees (PAC) and hosting co-op students, to contributing monetarily to outfit classrooms and funding annual student scholarships and bursaries.
“When we are at the table with Mohawk faculty, we can bring trends and needs of the industry to help shape the program,” says Lawrie. “Being on the PAC allows us to give feedback on the insurance world and community and the program itself, including on what curriculum should look like. We get to have a voice on behalf of the insurance industry.”
Nancy Swietek is a manager at Lawrie Group. She has been with the company for 34 years. Like Lawrie, Swietek says that actively working with a college partner in such a substantial and holistic way opens doors to various benefits. Among them is the opportunity to easily recruit new talent that is job-ready and enthusiastic about moving from entry-level positions into the multiple insurance areas Lawrie Group services.
“It’s very important for us to stay connected to the program faculty, as we are always in need of talent who bring value to our company with their new and innovative ideas,” she says. “Hard-working students from this program have created hard-working employees, who are always wanting to learn and grow.”
Adds Lawrie, “Mohawk students graduate with great technical skills and apply them to business seamlessly. We know the skills are world-class from an academic perspective and, combined with a will to learn more, generate a long-term career.”
In fact, Mohawk has been training students for the insurance industry for 40 years. Today, according to a student survey, 94 per cent of graduates from the non-co-op option are employed within six months of graduation. Meanwhile, 100 per cent of respondents from the college’s co-op option said they found a job within six months after finishing the program. Mary Martin, a Mohawk Insurance program faculty member, says partnerships with industry are an important part of what makes graduates industry-ready.
“When the pandemic first happened, we had a group of students out for the January 2020 co-op, and they all kept their jobs,” she remembers. “The industry helped them to set up in their homes and work remotely. I think that speaks volumes of the industry — and also the trust the workforce has in the educational component and in our open communication with them.”