North American employers have to find a way to tell high school students that companies still need information technology professionals right here in North America.

William Pieroni, global chief information officer at Aon Corp., Chicago, made that plea here during a panel discussion at the 2006 ACORD LOMA Systems Forum.

Panelists acknowledged that a chasm divides IT divisions and other divisions at many insurance companies.

“Two-thirds of IT projects in insurance fail to deliver on their objectives, perhaps due to unrealistic expectations,” Pieroni said.

The situation could get worse, because many industry IT professionals are nearing retirement, Pieroni warned.

“The generation of workers behind this generation is not as large–and not ready to go into technology,” Pieroni said. “As an industry, we have a problem: ‘How do we get kids interested in math and science again?’”

Another panelist, John Kellington, chief technology officer at Ohio Casualty Insurance Company, Fairfield, Ohio, talked about the importance of offering young IT job seekers competitive pay, a chance to “work on cool projects,” and a “nurturing environment.”

Barbara Koster, chief information officer at Prudential Financial Inc., Newark, N.J., recommended that insurers think about working conditions.

Young IT workers “want to work more remotely and raise families,” Koster said. “They will drive us into creating the programs that will allow them to work that way.”

Pieroni argued that insurers and other employers have to reach out to young people who are just starting to think about college.

Because young people are being told, incorrectly, that “everything is going offshore,” many are shying away from careers in computer science, Pieroni says.