Internship preps student for life after a layoff

After working for more than 35 years in the retail management business, Diane Levis was faced with the challenge of finding a new career. Not to be deterred, she began envisioning how she could take her knack for customer service to the next level. Thanks to WorkSource and St. Johns River State College, Levis accepted the challenge and found that there is life after a layoff.

Levis’ decision to reinvent herself with a fresh set of skills was paired with a need for work-life balance and job satisfaction. Now in her final semester at SJR State, Levis said her new path to success began with earning an Associate in Science degree in Business Administration and has come into fruition with an internship in the insurance industry.

Considered a capstone course, the internship with ThompsonBaker Insurance Agency is a first for the degree program’s insurance specialization. The College partnered with the St. Augustine agency to provide students with the relevant knowledge and experience that only an internship can provide.

Agency chairman Greg Baker initially partnered with the College in 2008 with a scholarship for the series of courses designed to prepare students for employment in the insurance industry. According to Baker, students possessing customer service and account management skills could help meet the growing need for technically trained, qualified insurance associates for independent insurance agencies in St. Johns County as well as throughout the state.

Baker said he was glad to partner in the program’s first internship. “The capstone course is a bridge between academics and the business world, giving students like Diane an opportunity to apply her knowledge and gain real world experience,” he said.

Levis describes her internship as a glimpse into the details of the industry. While her courses served as an overview, working beside her agency mentor Christy Lawrenson has shown Levis the number of clients assisted during the day as well as the way many tasks are completed. “Being on the job is more involved than what you would think. It’s high pressure,” Levis said. “You need to have all of your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed.” Not only does the experience provide an opportunity for Levis to establish important connections in the field, she feels the experience will also give her a competitive edge in the job market.

With state law requiring persons working in an insurance office who talk to clients about policies, collect money for premium payments or take information involved in the transaction of insurance to be licensed, there is generally a good job market for insurance agents, said SJR State Vice President for Workforce Development Anna Lebesch, Ed.D. The program specialization at SJR State allows students with a two or four-year degree who obtain the nine credit hours of the approved insurance specialization to qualify for a 4-40 Customer Service Representative License without further testing.

For more information regarding the courses and admission requirements, contact Joel Abo, SJR State’s director of business education, at (386) 312-4063.

PHOTO CAPTION: Members of the ThompsonBaker Insurance Agency pose with SJR State’s first insurance specialization intern, Diane Levis. From left: ThompsonBaker Agency Chairman, Greg Baker, agent mentor Christy Lawrenson, Levis, operations manager and SJR State alumnae Vikki Sims and SJR State’s director of business education, Joel Abo.