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GRCC, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, West Michigan Works! launch health benefits apprenticeship program

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Oct. 12, 2021 – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Grand Rapids Community College today announced the launch of an innovative paid apprenticeship program designed for high school graduates to access careers within the employee benefits specialist and health sectors.

The program is set as a 430-hour active learning module and will provide an overview of the health benefits industry, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to manage general agent licensing as required by the State of Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services. The first cohort of students began in the fall 2021 semester.

Blue Cross led the development of the apprenticeship with GRCC and West Michigan Works!, with the goal of inspiring a diverse population of students to see this career path as an interesting and financially rewarding opportunity for their future.

“Access and knowledge of employee benefits and insurance are pillars of a strong local economy,” said Jeff Connolly, senior vice president and president, West Michigan and Upper Peninsula at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “Our goal is to help the region build a qualified pool of licensed individuals who may begin to become agents within the next 14 to 24 months and even own their own agencies someday.”

GRCC President Bill Pink said the new program is an effort to change the idea of apprenticeships, expanding the “learn while you earn” concept to more industries, partnering with additional employers.

“We’re Looking at apprenticeships differently. You think about manufacturing, historically when you think about apprenticeships. Our college is determined to turn that on its head. It’s not just about manufacturing, but it’s about healthcare. It’s about information technology.

“The Health Insurance Agent Apprenticeship will allow students to learn about basic business as well as hands-on experience with the health benefits industry and skill-building topics. GRCC is proud to partner with the manufacturing, construction and other industries to help prepare the future leaders while lifting up our students into immediate careers. This program fits right in to GRCC’s model of serving the needs of the community, employers and students for the future.”

“West Michigan Works! is delighted to partner with Grand Rapids Community College and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on this innovative work,” said Amy Lebednick, business solutions director at West Michigan Works!. “Collaboration between employers, education, and workforce development has played a key role in the expansion of local registered apprenticeship programs. These programs allow employers to train people in the skills they need and provide pathways to high-demand careers for individuals in our communities.”

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