We need non-traditional ways to recruit, train and retain entry level life sciences workers

We need non-traditional ways to recruit, train and retain entry level life sciences workers

In the first blog of this series, we talked about the rationale and need to develop a well-trained and highly skilled biotech workforce to support R & D and bio-manufacturing in Maryland.  Now, I want to highlight what our State is doing to strengthen a basic workforce needed to support our rapidly maturing bio-based industry sector. My focus is on the career path for the underemployed worker trying to gain access into this new and exciting business of biotechnology. Besides, the 4- and 2-year colleges won’t produce enough workers to fill the future void.  At a recent Mid-Atlantic Biology Research and Career Network Conference held at Loyola College (www.loyola.edu/mabrc) ,  Kelly M. Schulz, Maryland Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) stated that in Maryland, there are only 2,300 new graduates in 2017, with B.S. degrees in the biosciences.  Given that there are approximately 2,260 life sciences businesses including more than 500 core biotech firms in Maryland, is that enough of an entry-level talent pool to sustain the nee   Probably not, especially considering that a proportion of these new graduates will not stay in Maryland following completion of their degrees.

So,  what do we do to train and retain biotechnology talent in Maryland?  Two programs making a difference are the EARN Maryland program and the Maryland Tech Connection.  EARN Maryland, a DLLR program since 2014, is an industry collaboration with diverse partners working together to meet the changing workforce needs and skills shortage, bridging the skills gap and driving economic growth in our State.  In addition to the bioscience sector, EARN Maryland also targets the IT sector. EARN targets incumbent workers, as well as, low and no-skilled workers to eliminate barriers and create career pathways. Two groups, BioTrain, located in Montgomery County and the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc (BTI) in Baltimore City are EARN grant recipients working to up-skill workers and provide employment opportunities in Maryland.  BioTrain began in 2013 and is tasked with improving the job readiness of entry level employees and sharpening the skills of incumbent employees in the biosciences industry. BTI is taking a different tack expanding biosciences job opportunities to Baltimore City residents and Maryland residents.  Since 1998, BTI’s mission is to train high school graduates that are under and unemployed to be skilled workers in the biosciences. Maryland EARN has allowed BTI to expand its outreach to allow more Maryland residents to gain employment by providing the skills needed to enter into this exciting field of bioscience.

Another critical workforce program, Maryland Tech Connection (MTC) is a public-private initiative comprised of a coalition of 59 partners led by the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation. MTC seeks to support the talent acquisition and retention needs of IT and bioscience businesses and assist long-term under and unemployed professionals’ transition to occupations within these high-demand industries.   MTC provides needed pre- employment coaching and job readiness skills,  to transition the client into  programs such as BTI for advanced biotechnology training where the hands-on laboratory skills are developed.

Together,  efforts like these demonstrate in part that our State has made a commitment to economic development in the area of biotechnology and we are lifting up our own bioscience community by the bootstraps.  The next blog will focus on programs of the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc. in Baltimore as the organization gets ready to celebrate their 20th year providing  tuition free hands-on biotechnology training.


Posted by
Timothy W. Fawcett
Author Bio
Timothy Fawcett, Ph.D. has been in the biotechnology business for over 30 years. Trained as a biochemist he has held senior positions in both academics and industry and has served on scientific advisory boards for several large biotech companies. He has also been a mentor to many young scientists throughout his career. For the last 17 years Dr. Fawcett has been the Scientific Director of the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc. (BTI) a non-profit institute located in Baltimore, Maryland. He is also the Founder and Director of BioSciConcepts, a social venture of BTI that provides hands-on training for professional scientists in cell culture, baculovirus based expression, as well as topics such as molecular biology, PCR and real-time PCR. BioSciConcepts is an internationally recognized provider of expertise in the biological sciences and has provided consultation services to several small and large biotechnology companies.

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