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Horizon trains N.J. vets to fill full-time IT jobs

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Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is training military veterans for skilled IT jobs, either with the health insurer or elsewhere in the state's workforce.

Horizon has partnered with Workforce Opportunity Services and Rutgers University-Newark to develop a 39-week work-study program for veterans. Participants take courses focused on software development, business writing and business solutions at night, and then intern at Horizon during the day.

One of those veterans is James Lee, who served in the National Guard while attending Rutgers University.

Lee said he was drawn to the program after watching his friends graduate from college and struggle to find good jobs. He majored in criminal justice at Rutgers but was interested in a career in computer science. The training program at Horizon offered him a window into that field.

"This program, in some sense, gave me the knowledge and the help, gave me a step inside the corporate world," Lee said. "I do enjoy what I do, and I feel like I want to complete my next bachelor's degree in computer science."

When the program ends in the next couple of weeks, Horizon will pull from that pool of newly trained vets to fill full-time positions in its information technology division.

"Workers with military backgrounds have developed unique leadership skills from their service in the armed forces, which should promote — and never hinder — their re-entry into the workforce," Peggy Coons, senior vice president for human resources for Horizon, said in a statement. "Horizon recognizes that the same qualities that made them exceptional members of the military can make them exceptional members of the workforce."

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