Biopharma training programs ramping up to meet workforce demands

Fayetteville Tech, Livingstone College latest to offer training programs

With North Carolina’s biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry continuing to expand, two college-based programs are working to stay ahead of the growth by preparing students for promising careers in the sector.

The HBCU/HAIU Coalition, led by N.C. Central University, launched its first regional bioprocessing program at UNC-Pembroke in January. Four additional training programs, one most recently started at Livingstone College, will be launched across the state from mid-June to early August. NCCU’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) is coordinating the program at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Historically American Indian Universities (HAIUs).

And BioWork, administered through N.C. Community Colleges, has expanded to Fayetteville Technical Community College - a move that opens opportunities for members of the military transitioning to the private sector. FTCC is now the 13th community college across the state to participate in BioWork.

FTCC group
Celebrating the new BioWork course at Fayetteville Tech, from left to right:
NCBiotech's Andrew George and Jacob Key; Murtis Worth, Lashonda Turner
and Jolee Marsh of Fayetteville Tech; Bruce Coleman and Hee-Sook Song of NCBiotech.

Both programs owe their recent expansion in part to an initiative called Accelerate NC - Life Sciences Manufacturing. Led by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Accelerate NC is a coalition funded by a $25 million grant as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

A key goal for Accelerate NC is to attract talent from rural and historically disadvantaged areas of the state.

“It’s essential to the success of the state’s life sciences manufacturing industry that we help fill the talent pipeline,” said Sara Imhof, vice president for NCBiotech’s Focused Initiatives Team. “These two programs are great examples of collaborating across industry, government and academia to create more opportunities for North Carolinians who want to be a part of a growing industry.”

Skilled workers needed

Drugmakers with operations in North Carolina have increasing demand for skilled workers. Over the 2022 through 2026 time frame, an estimated 8,000 new jobs in life sciences manufacturing are projected to be created. As more biopharma companies establish manufacturing operations here, their workforce needs will only grow.

Because the industry is subject to regulatory oversight and precise quality standards, people entering the field need a good understanding of manufacturing processes unique to life sciences.

Applicants to the HBCU/HAIU Coalition bioprocessing training must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and be a North Carolina resident. No biopharma manufacturing experience is required. Training begins with online modules, which must be completed before a mandatory two-week in-person session that runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

“This program is designed to introduce new workforce opportunities to underserved communities that may not have any knowledge of the biopharma manufacturing industry,” said Ermine Cupid-Hastings, Build Back Better program manager with BRITE. “With BRITE and Accelerate NC working together, participants can learn new skills that the biopharma manufacturing industry needs as it grows and expands across the state of North Carolina.”

For BioWork, training programs are designed for students to begin careers as process technicians in biotech, pharmaceutical or chemical manufacturing. A high school diploma or equivalent is needed, along with attendance at an information session and completion of reading and math placement tests. Students take training over a period of roughly two months, or 136 hours of instruction.

Support for transitioning military

FTCC’s BioWork course began in late April with seven students, including four from the military community. NCBiotech’s Military Outreach and Veterans Engagement (MOVE) program, which helps veterans, spouses and transitioning military members obtain employment and training, recruited the four.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration helped FTCC pay for registration fees and textbooks for military members, as well as for an instructor, equipment and supplies, said Jacob Key, MOVE’s program manager.

The instructor, Rick Lawless, brings nearly 40 years of experience in the biopharma industry. He’s been teaching biomanufacturing and regulatory affairs at N.C. State University for 15 years.

More HBCU/HAIU programs starting

Meanwhile, the HBCU/HAIU program is preparing for more instruction following a successful launch at UNC-Pembroke early this year.

Livingstone College in Salisbury, for example, is actively promoting its bioprocessing training to potential students from Rowan County and surrounding areas. Sessions are scheduled for the weeks of July 15 and July 26, running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day on the campus of the college at 701 W. Monroe St., Salisbury, NC.

Livingstone has only 12 slots available, and priority is given to NC residents. For further information, reach out to Jo-Sette Wilkes at biotraining@livingstone.edu.

Other bioprocessing training is scheduled for Winston-Salem State University, Fayetteville State University, and a second session at UNC-Pembroke.

Kyle Marshall, NCBiotech Writer
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