In his early 20s, Luke Grobeck struggled to find a job. Turning to e-commerce, he had some success selling retro video games online. From there, he worked at AAA in customer service and dispatched tow trucks until the pandemic hit in 2020.
Like many at the start of the pandemic, Grobeck found himself laid off, figuring out what to do next. “When the pandemic hit, I wasn’t prepared,” Grobeck said. “About seven or eight months after being laid off, I was getting sick of being at home.”
It was around this time that Grobeck enrolled in a welding program at Metropolitan Community College, which he hoped would get him back on his feet. When he started the program, however, his unemployment benefits were cut off and he found himself struggling to pay his bills. This started a domino effect that led Grobeck to lose his apartment and eventually spend three weeks in a hotel before reaching out to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
DHHS helped Grobeck find Ignite Nebraska, a program envisioned by Joni Wheeler, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s (BCBSNE) executive vice president of talent and enterprise solutions. To develop the Ignite program, BCBSNE worked with Bellevue University and several state agencies, including DHHS, the Nebraska Department of Labor, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, National Able Network, and Heartland Workforce Solutions.
Ignite addresses three specific gaps in the Nebraska workforce: increasing diversity in corporate technology jobs, closing the generational poverty gap, and fixing the technology talent shortage. Ignite provides access to in-demand career opportunities through paid apprenticeships. “I realized I had to do something new,” Grobeck said. “Blue Cross needed coders, and I definitely needed Blue Cross.”
Grobeck was one of four apprentices in the inaugural Ignite cohort that graduated in October of 2022. Through the eight-month program, the pilot group of apprentices gained the skills they needed for a career in information technology by working in the BCBSNE Information Services department and learning in the classroom at Bellevue University. After completing the program, Grobeck accepted a job at BCBSNE as an associate software developer. “Ignite helped me learn coding languages that I’m able to build on and apply to the projects I’m working on at Blue Cross,” Grobeck explained.
Using some previous experience in web development, as well as the skills he learned from Ignite, Grobeck is taking data and explaining it using visuals in Power BI, a business analytics software that makes it easier to visualize data and share analytics.
Now, Grobeck is taking classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, pursuing master’s degrees in computer science and data science. After graduating, Grobeck said he’d like to be a senior engineer at BCBSNE within the next four years. “Since starting the Ignite program, it’s been a total 180,” Grobeck said. “I’ve been on a rocket ride since then. It’s all about how much you put into it.”
For more on Ignite Nebraska, visit NebraskaBlue.com/Ignite.
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