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The article below was reprinted from the Burlington County Time of Feb 4th 2011.

MOUNT LAUREL - Jay Buchanon is a big believer in the future of the insurance industry.

Buchanon, who worked in the field for 15 years, is one of the advocates of a new initiative at Burlington County College in which a select group of students is taking part in insurance classes that will lead to a special designation.

"Some young people think insurance is boring, but it's not," said the teacher of business and accounting at the college. "There are a lot of opportunities."

On Thursday afternoon, Buchanon took part in the official launch of the college foundation's new program that will provide classes for students to become certified as chartered property-casualty underwriters.

According to industry experts, the designation is the equivalent of a CPA's license in the accounting profession.

The event took place in Laurel Hall at the Mount Laurel campus on Route 38. School, business and political officials attended along with about a dozen of the students taking the classes.

CNA Insurance of Chicago agreed to sponsor the students to take the first two classes. In addition, the Insurance Society of Philadelphia recruited the instructor for the course and has committed to providing support to the program.

Buchanon is also leading by example. He said he was taking the class to get certified.

Students taking part in Thursday's event were enthusiastic.

Claretha Mervin, 62, of Willingboro, said she was looking forward to "doing something different."

"I just want to learn the field," said Mervin, a retired manager from Verizon who will graduate in the spring with a degree in business administration.

Her thoughts were echoed by Michelle Walker. The Pemberton Township resident said she wanted to better herself.

A secretary for the Pemberton Township School District since 1992, Walker, 45, said she learned about the insurance class from Buchanon, her accounting teacher.


Tony Mahon, President of AJM (2nd from left) at ribbon cutting. Picture courtsey of Gordon Hudson.

"There's a demand in the industry," she said. "I want a better job and + it leads me to a better field."

College officials agreed that the impetus for the program was Tony Mahon, president of AJM Insurance in Cherry Hill.

They said the agreement with CNA was forged thanks to Mahon's enthusiasm and energy. Mahon, a Springfield resident, also is on the college foundation's board of directors.

"He has been the driver of the program," said Moorestown businesswoman Amy Webb, who is also on BCC's board of trustees. "He has done a great job."

Webb, owner of Saratoga Benefit Services, an employee benefits consulting firm, praised the initiative as much needed in the face of today's economic reality.

"We think it's a wonderful program," she said. "The emphasis is on a specific skill which the economy demands today. This puts the students ahead of the curve."

Mahon made a special reference to the diversity of the students taking the classes, adding that they were a "microcosm" of society.

Once the students complete and pass all five courses over the next 18 months, they will earn 15 college credits.

Buchanon said the demand for underwriters in particular would increase as the older generation retired in the next few years.

"There are a lot of good-paying jobs with retirement benefits," Webb added. "This program will give (the students) a great opportunity."

Chris Bishop can be reached at 609-871-8140, cbishop@phillyBurbs.com or twitter.com/chrisleebishop.

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