CHICAGO, May 9, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) today upped its commitment to support students who wish to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-related careers in health care through the expansion of scholarship opportunities, internships and educational programs.
As part of these efforts, the company announced the creation of The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas STEM Scholarship, facilitated by the UNCF (United Negro College Fund). Beginning May 16, high school seniors can apply for a $20,000 scholarship to pursue a four-year degree program in a STEM-related field. Applications will be accepted through June 24, 2016 at UNCF.org. As part of the submission process, students must write an essay on the value of STEM careers and improving health care outcomes in underrepresented communities.
"BCBSIL is proud to offer this scholarship to today's students – an investment in tomorrow's leaders and professionals in the health care field," said Maurice Smith, president, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. "Teaming up with the UNCF to encourage STEM careers also allows us to work with a historic organization that shares our commitment to diversity and inclusion as well as our commitment to advancing educational opportunities in the communities we serve."
"We're excited not only about our efforts with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, but also this new scholarship opportunity for a deserving student right here in our state," said Michael Cox, UNCF regional development director, who oversees UNCF's campaign in Illinois. "This is significant news for students pursuing STEM majors and careers, and we truly appreciate this investment in better futures through UNCF."
STEM occupations are projected to grow by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.  BCBSIL anticipates 14 percent growth in STEM-related jobs company-wide over the next two years. Over the past two years, the company has experienced a 33 percent growth in STEM- related jobs.
To help meet demand and deepen awareness of the variety of STEM-related careers in health insurance including actuarial science, finance, treasury, technology, nursing, network engineers, medical directors and more, BCBSIL is cultivating relationships with elementary school, high school and college students who reflect the diverse communities the company serves.
BCBSIL currently supports several programs aimed at raising student awareness of health care-related STEM careers, including:
- BCBSIL STEM Day Career: A job-shadow day and round-table discussion for Chicago Public Schools students to learn about technology experiences and career options at BCBSIL. While at BCBSIL, students job-shadow IT employees and learn from leaders across various disciplines about potential STEM career options in health insurance;
- Lumity One-Day Challenge: More than a dozen high school juniors and seniors gather at BCBSIL headquarters in Chicago and work with IT and business leaders to complete an IT change-based project. In 2015, students worked to create a mobile app that addressed childhood obesity by encouraging healthy activities;
- Work-Study Program with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School: BCBSIL sponsors 12 work study internships each year in which students job-share a position with a BCBSIL employee to earn college prep tuition while gaining on-the-job experience;
- Insuring Our Future: BCBSIL hosts Chicago Public School juniors and seniors with an interest in math and science at events featuring one-on-one speed networking sessions, career guidance and a game show called "We've Got Your Number" that allows them to test their math skills and win prizes.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois
With 8.1 million members, BCBSIL, a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, is the largest health insurer in Illinois. Begun in 1936 in Chicago, BCBSIL remains member owned rather than publicly traded, and is committed to promoting the health and wellness of its members and its communities, fostering greater access to care, and working to lower the overall cost of care while improving care quality and patient outcomes. For more information, visit bcbsil.com.
About United Negro College Fund
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students' education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding nearly 20 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF awards more than $100 million in scholarships annually and administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, A mind is a terrible thing to waste.® Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at more than 1,100 colleges and universities. Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous news and updates, follow UNCF on Twitter @UNCF.
 Economics & Statistics Administration – United States Department of Commerce. "STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future." July 14, 2011. http://www.esa.doc.gov/reports/stem-good-jobs-now-and-future.
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SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois