The insurance job sector is expanding, and College of the Canyons is getting ready to prepare its students for the growth through a new degree program. Administrators at the Valencia-based community college have been working for about a year to create a program that offers the option of an associate’s degree or a certificate of achievement in insurance and risk management, a rarity among colleges throughout the state. The program, which is set to start by next year’s spring semester, was created to respond to demands by both students and local insurance companies, said Audrey Green, the college’s vice president of academic affairs. “In Santa Clarita, there are a lot of insurance … companies, so it seemed kind of like a natural fit,” Green said. “Even in this economy, people still need insurance. When we look at programs to grow, we have to look at both the economy and industry needs, and this is one where there is still a need.” The college’s curriculum committee approved the program in February and has been working with the program’s advisory committee, which is made up of local insurance industry representatives, to help design the curriculum. Once the curriculum is passed, likely in the fall, the college will submit an application to the state’s community colleges chancellor’s office for final approval, Green said. The school has partnered with The American College, which is set to offer further insurance education through the school’s Dr. Diane G. Van Hook University Center starting this fall. The College of the Canyons curriculum is designed to help fulfill prerequisite requirements for The American College program, which prepares students for industry certifications. Few meeting the need The insurance job market is expected to grow about 9 percent, from 19,396 jobs in 2011 to 21,047 jobs in 2016 in the local region, according to an occupation report compiled by College of the Canyons. During the same time period, the market is expected to increase 13 percent statewide and 14 percent nationwide. However, only a few colleges in the state offer degree and certificate-of-achievement programs in the insurance field, Green said. As of March, only 12 community colleges in California were offering the programs, with Glendale Community College being the closest one to Santa Clarita, according to documents from the chancellor’s office. With College of the Canyon’s new insurance program in the works, the school would become the only community college in the northern Los Angeles County region to offer the insurance curriculum, Green said. Insurance courses offered at the community college level open a whole new realm of opportunity, said Don Like, chief financial officer of L/B/W Insurance and Financial Services, Inc., and chairman of the program’s advisory committee. “For many years, there were only a handful of colleges … that really had insurance classes that were meaningful,” said Like, naming Pennsylvania-based The American College as one of them. “There is definitely a need for this. The population of people involved in insurance, they’re graying.” Like said completion of the introductory-level program would give students a competitive edge in the insurance and financial services industries, which are generally difficult to enter. “I think that conceptually they understand insurance,” Like said. “They’d be more valuable because they’d understand investing and they’d understand the long-term goals.” Green said the school is still determining how to market the program and the incentives of working in the insurance industry. “It’s a way to expose people to a program and career that they hadn’t thought about before,” she said. The college is also creating and expanding more programs that focus on other growing industries. Administrators are working on expanding the school’s electronics systems technology program and introducing an energy management program by next spring semester, Green said. They are also developing a plumbing curriculum by fall semester of 2011 and revising the college’s water systems technology program.