First of its kind health insurance agent apprenticeship program will offer paid on-the-job training

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Grand Rapids Community College will launch a paid apprenticeship program designed for high school graduates to access careers within the employee benefits and health sectors.

The program 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.

The program requires  430-hours of active learning.

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.

“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,” says Jeff Connolly, senior vice president and president, West Michigan and Upper Peninsula at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

GRCC President Bill Pink says 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," Pink says. "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 program will allow students to not only learn about the business basics, but to obtain hands-on experience within the health benefits industry.

GRCC has long partnered with the manufacturing, construction, and other industries to help prepare future leaders while at the same time helping students start immediate careers. 

“This program fits right into GRCC’s model of serving the needs of the community, employers and students for the future,” Pink says.

Collaboration has been key to developing apprenticeship programs, says Amy Lebednick, business solutions director at West Michigan Works!. Employers, educators, and workforce development professionals have worked together to advance the area economy in this way.

“These programs allow employers to train people in the skills they need and provide pathways to high-demand careers for individuals in our communities,” Lebednick says.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit mutual insurance company, that provides health benefits to more than 4.7 million members residing in Michigan. Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. West Michigan Works! provides proactive and innovative workforce solutions to create a pool of qualified talent that meets the needs of the region’s employers.  

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.