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S.C. BlueCross Trains Its Own Computer Programmers Over Past Decade; Will Need 250 More Programmers Within Five Years

July 11, 2007

Columbia, S.C. -- In the 1990s, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina couldn’t find enough computer science graduates who knew how to run its powerful systems, so the company started an entry-level training program for applications development that is still underway 10 years later.

"Colleges were teaching students how to build operating systems for PCs, develop client/server systems or game software, but they didn’t understand legacy systems or large-scale computer programming," said BlueCross CIO Stephen K. Wiggins. "So, we started our own internal program."

A total of 245 people have completed the Entry Level Training Program (ELTP) over the past 10 years. Most have computer science bachelor’s degrees, and they pass an interview and an aptitude test before being accepted into the class. Class work is intensive and lasts 12 weeks; then, students work with a mentor until the company is satisfied they have mastered their skill area. There are two classes a year.

Initially, the only classes taught were legacy computer programming, but over the years the instruction has branched out to include network operations, workstation support, non-host operations and project management. Students opt to take just one of these skill areas. Instructors come from within BlueCross or from outside contractors such as Alpha Training and Services, Cornelius & Associates, and Midlands Technical College.

BlueCross has 1,600 full-time employees working in technology, plus some contract technology employees, out of its total 12,000 employees in South Carolina and other states.

"All of our business is run on our systems," said Wiggins. "We are somewhat unique in the insurance industry in that we run different types of business on the same systems – health insurance, life insurance, workers’ compensation, property and auto insurance, military TRICARE, Medicare – all of these are run through two computer centers operating off of one of the most powerful health care insurance systems in the nation. Other companies put all these on separate servers. We are in the top 2 percent of all data centers in the world in terms of size and scale."

BlueCross BlueShield and its subsidiary companies have won numerous national technology awards and recognitions in providing self-service for members, agents and health care providers.

The company recruits technology employees at job fairs from in-state colleges such as the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, Furman University, Midlands Technical College, Winthrop University, Claflin University, South Carolina State University, the College of Charleston, and Coastal Carolina University. As one of the largest employers and one of the largest technology employers in the state, BlueCross also receives applicants from out of state.

"We anticipate needing 200 to 250 more programmers over the next five years, as we see growth in insourcing of work from other BlueCross plans and other insurance companies that use our systems and staffing," said Wiggins.

The company will recognize the 10th anniversary of its ELTP for Applications Development with a drop-in in August of past graduates, instructors and company senior staff.

Anyone seeking more information on the program should send an e-mail to IS.Recruiting@BCBSSC.com.

Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and its family of companies include more than 20 subsidiaries involved in health insurance services, U.S. DOD health plan and Medicare contracts, and other insurance and employee benefits services.

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