It’s one thing to listen to someone describe what it’s like to be in a given career, but what if you could experience the challenges and rewards of that career firsthand while you’re still a student? Hands-on training can be eye-opening and transformative, which is why Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees mentor students in the unique ERPsim program at Central Michigan University. “Talking to students for an hour is nice,” says Tom Borgula, Information Technology Director, Corporate Services. “But we think it’s even more important for them to really be able to see how things are in the working world.” For the past seven years, Blue Cross Enterprise Resource Planning employees have mentored Central Michigan University students in a five-month program. It brings together employees from Blue Cross’ Information Technology, Human Resources and Procurement teams with students studying finance, systems, applications and logistics. As the program progresses, the students work through activities that show exactly what goes on in that industry—all while being guided by professionals who know the subject matter best. “We try to show the students that there’s more to IT than just going into a back room and coding all day,” says Borgula. “We want them to understand their options.”
A Chance to Shine
The mentoring program culminates with the ERPsim Competition, which puts students’ learning to the test by having them solve real-world business challenges. “Strategy is key, so the students get insight from past ERPsim participants who are now Blue Cross employees,” says Borgula. This isn’t just a contest, it’s a cross-discipline opportunity for mentors and students alike to show their knowledge. “We approach this competition in a fully organized, integrated way,” says Borgula. “This is a serious event for us.” One of the best parts about competition day? Students have the opportunity to connect with Blue Cross executives. “We’ve had senior vice presidents attend and participate over the past six years and our Chief Information Officer, William Fandrich, attended the last two years,” says Borgula. In his eyes, it’s the presence of this leadership that makes this mentoring program stand out for participants.
This program brings together students who desire experience and mentors looking to help those starting their career. “All of us Blue Cross employees have benefited from mentoring of some type, whether from a family member, friend or co-workers,” says Borgula. “We felt a tremendous push to take our collective experience and knowledge and share it with the students.” And it isn’t just the students and mentors who get something out of the competition—it’s also been a great source of talent for the Blue Cross team. “Over the last five years, we’ve hired 16 students right on the competition floor,” says Borgula. “The ERPsim Competition is special for us, and we want to make this special for the students who put forth so much effort. We want to give them a path to success.” And it works: Fifteen of those students are still with the company and succeeding in their careers. To read more about Blue Cross’s commitment to cultivating the next generation of leaders, visit these blogs:
- CMU Event Turns Blue Cross Employees Into Mentors
- CMU’s “ERPsim” Equips Students with Essential Skills for IT
- Intern to Full-Timer: How One Employee Made the Transition
This post was originally published on Aug. 25, 2017 and has been updated.