Accelerate NC Career Celebration spotlights workforce training successes   

The “Accelerate NC Career Celebration” at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center on May 7, 2024, brought together key players in the complex ecosystem that makes North Carolina a global leader in life sciences manufacturing.

This inaugural event recognized 69 individuals who have recently joined the life sciences workforce alongside their peers, teachers, employers, family and friends.

It was a real-world example of ideas becoming reality for Laura Rowley, Ph.D., vice president of life sciences economic development at NCBiotech, as she opened the ceremony with an explanation of its history.

Accelerate NC group photo
New to the life sciences workforce. -Photo by SP Murray 

“We are here together today because of a $25 million U.S. Economic Development Administration Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant,” she said.

“While we are incredibly fortunate to live in a state with a long life sciences history, this opportunity challenged us to elevate training and industry relationships to another level to enable more North Carolinians – particularly those who have been historically excluded from the sector – to have the awareness, resources, training, and connectivity, to secure fulfilling and family-sustaining life-sciences careers.”

Rowley explained that the Accelerate North Carolina – Life Sciences Manufacturing coalition of partners has worked over the past 16 months to provide scholarships, expand training offerings, meet one-on-one with students to navigate hurdles, and establish apprenticeships.    

“And today, we’re here together to celebrate individuals – you – who have recently launched your life sciences careers,” she said.

Those recently hired were graduates of BioWork, a certificate program offered at 13 North Carolina community colleges that teaches the fundamentals of working as a process technician in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or chemical manufacturing facilities.

Some individuals completed BioWork as part of the Made in Durham’s BULLS Life Sciences Academy. The BULLS program provides young adults in Durham County a $10,000 life stipend and wraparound support services to empower them to complete BioWork at Durham Technical Community College and gain employment at local life sciences manufacturing companies in the Research Triangle.

Other individuals completed BioWork and became apprentices through the North Carolina Life Sciences Apprenticeship Consortium (NCLSAC). The consortium is utilizing funding from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge to offer scholarships for 220 North Carolinians to take BioWork at a local community college and qualify for apprenticeships at leading life sciences manufacturing companies to continue their education and gain valuable on-the-job training.    

Among the participants was White House representative Dan Koh, deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.  

“Job creation is at the center of President Biden’s vision to invest in America,” said Koh. “By expanding access to career training and job opportunities in the life sciences, Accelerate NC and the Build Back Better Regional Challenge – made possible through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan – are transforming futures and empowering families for generations to come.”

Abigail Smith, CSL Seqirus - Photo by SP Murray/NCBiotech

Rowley thanked corporate partners, including Amgen, Biogen, Lilly, Merck, Novartis Gene Therapies, Novo Nordisk and Pfizer for their engagement from the start and their financial commitment to seed the Accelerate NC initiatives. Companies that have since joined the NCLSAC, and the other life sciences employers across the state were also recognized for providing career opportunities for North Carolinians.  

One speaker was a newly trained, newly hired worker being celebrated, Abigail Smith, of Cary. Smith told attendees about her personal journey that led to her new job as a calibration technician at CSL Seqirus in Holly Springs. “I feel like the world is open to me,” she said, “and that’s so exciting.”    

Earlier this month the former Home Depot employee received a Biopharmaceutical Technology Associate in Applied Science degree from Wake Tech Community College (WTCC). In November 2023, while working on her degree, Smith was hired as a maintenance technician apprentice at CSL Seqirus. That provided her with valuable experience plus a full-time worker’s paycheck while attending WTCC classes. Read more about Abigail Smith’s career journey in this article on the WTCC website.  

Photo by SP Murray

Following Smith’s remarks, those being celebrated were called on stage for a round of applause, a photo opportunity with representatives from their company or their community college, and a chance to sign an Accelerate NC poster.  

Thirty-one individuals were celebrated in-person for launching new careers at the following companies:

Amgen:  
  •    James Butler, manufacturing associate  
  •    Gordon Thomas Jr., manufacturing associate  
  •    Dominique Woodards, utilities maintenance technician         
  •    James Just, manufacturing associate I - apprentice    
  •    Faythe Owens, manufacturing associate II  

Biogen: 

  •  Kimberly Kiss, manufacturing associate I - apprentice

Grifols:  
  •    Ana Banks, fractionation technician  
  •    Juana Florido, purification technician  
  •    Christopher Gonzalez, filling technician  

bioMerieux:  
  •    Sontisha Jordan, bulk formulation technician  

CSL Seqirus:  
  •    Jose Castillo, maintenance apprentice technician  
  •    Abigail Smith, maintenance apprentice technician  

Labcorp:  
  •    Sumer Jenkins, specimen accessioner 

Lilly:  
  •    Megan Armitage, process technician  
  •    Ousseynou Barry, senior technician device assembly  
  •    Jacqueline Matthews, operations apprentice  
  •    Hashmatullah Pardisi, process technician/packaging  
  •    Desiree Turner, operations apprentice  

Novo Nordisk:  
  •    Robert Cheek, manufacturing operator  
  •    Daniella Florido, API manufacturing associate I  
  •    Joseph Guglietta, API manufacturing associate  
  •    Kanae Harris, manufacturing operator I  
  •    Ashley Hedrick, API manufacturing associate I  
  •    Ethan Howe, API manufacturing associate  
  •    Wayne Long, API manufacturing associate I  
  •    Noah Netter, filling tech  
  •    Oritsemoyowa Omamofe, manufacturing operator I  
  •    Damon Sanders, manufacturing operator I  
  •    Cleveland Lamar Smith, warehouse operator  
  •    Paul Weinhold, industrial maintenance technician  
  •    Nikita Zakharov, manufacturing operator I  

The following were unable to attend the event, but were recognized for completing BioWork training and securing employment with North Carolina-based companies:  
  •    Naomi Atwater – Andersen Scientific  
  •    Khalid Oloko – Biogen  
  •    Zach Rankin – Biogen  
  •    Armond Sahe – Biogen  
  •    Craig Jarvis – Biogen  
  •    Katherine Limlingan – Biogen  
  •    Alban Fergusson – bioMeriuex  
  •    Henry Hatcher – Grifols  
  •    Elizabeth Cortez Juarez - Grifols  
  •    Georgette Dossou – Guerbet  
  •    Caroline Hegwer – KBI Biopharma  
  •    Marissa Martinez – KBI Biopharma  
  •    Lundyn Reid – Lilly  
  •    Desiree Turner – Lilly  
  •    Chloe Allen – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Nikita Benner – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Brett Cox – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Aristides Cruz – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Manuel Gomes – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Elvira Hernandez – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Kane Keleel – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Caleb Kornegay – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Chrispin Mbuyi – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Cooper McKinnon – Novo Nordisk
  •    Amber Rose – Novo Nordisk  
  •    Cory Robinson – Novonesis  
  •    Niyah Taylor - Octapharma Plasma  
  •    Anthony McDougald – Pfizer  
  •    Diaundra McLeod – Pfizer  
  •    Connor Reardon – Pfizer  
  •    Mikeya Welsh – Pfizer  

Alamance Community College, Central Carolina Community College, Durham Tech, Johnston Community College, Vance-Granville Community College, and Wake Tech Community College were recognized for their contributions of providing life sciences manufacturing training.  

The event closed with a call to continue welcoming more North Carolinians into the state’s life sciences community. To become a part of Accelerate NC, join the community platform here

Jim Shamp, NCBiotech Writer 
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