On my old commute to work I got to know the routine of my hour-long Metro ride into EBA's Washington office so well that I'd figured out where to stand on the platform to be right in front of the doors, and memorized the inflections of the train operators voices announcing the stations so I could focus on my book without worrying about missing my exit.

But there's a problem with such a strategy. I grew complacent. While I had my head down, confident that my well-worn routine would get me where I needed to be, the world around me changed. One day I looked up from my book, and having not realized construction had altered the track route, I had no idea where I was. Lucky for me, the only consequence was arriving late to work as I backtracked on another train. The benefit advising industry is experiencing such a "where am I?" moment now when it comes to youth in the industry.

As health care reform does its own construction work of sorts on the benefits landscape, many brokers who are looking up to seek their proper exit are finding there's no one around to conduct the train. One recent study in Ohio alone found that as baby boomers retire, more than 17,000 jobs in the insurance sector will need to be filled in the next five years.

A 30-year insurance and HR veteran, Carol Blaine has witnessed the graying of the industry firsthand. She admits, "We got a little complacent and we did not reach out and tell our story so that we could continue to fill our pipeline with bright young people that we needed."

Now lead faculty member for Kent State University's newly formed insurance studies degree program, Blaine is a key part of Ohio's effort, along with its Insurance Industry Resource Council, to recruit young students into the profession.

The Buckeye State is not alone, of course. Blaine points out that McKinsey & Company found in a 2005 study that the industry is facing a 20%-25% retirement rate over the next 15 years. "This definitely is an industry wide concern," she says.

If you're not serving in a youth mentorship role already, I urge you to do so. And if you need a place to start, try Temple University insurance student Noreen Oswald. She's reaching out to you for advice in this month's Be Advised column ("Where do I begin?" p. 55).

As for the future of the industry, fortunately, if EBA's 2013 Rising Stars in Advising ("A step ahead," p. 30) are any indication, there is an outstanding crop of young advisers out there now. We just need more of them. Rising star Nickelle Leist, 28, of San Francisco's Pinney Insurance, found one thing in common with the successful industry veterans she's sought out for advice: they all had mentors of their own. Coincidence? I think not.

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