State’s Colleges, Universities Lead Charge for Biopharma Manufacturing Jobs

North Carolina has one of the largest biopharma manufacturing industries in the nation, and its footprint is growing.

In the last year, companies already here including BioAgilytix, Biogen, FUJIFILM Diosynth, KBI Biopharma, Merck, Pfizer and Thermo Fisher have announced plans to invest billions of dollars to grow their operations in the state.

At the same time, many out-of-state manufacturers have also announced plans to set up shop in North Carolina, also committing billions of dollars and promises of thousands of new, well-paying jobs. They include many newer names such as Adverum Biotechnologies, Abzena, Beam Therapeutics, CARsgen, EnviroFlight, Invitae, Raybow and Taysha.

As a result, North Carolina life sciences companies are filling thousands of jobs in the biomanufacturing field.

Positions with biopharma manufacturing include process, maintenance and instrumentation technicians, quality assurance, quality control and process development associates and process engineers. Salaries range from $40,000 to nearly $100,000 based on training and experience.

To fill this growing need, businesses and community colleges across North Carolina have formed public/private partnerships and launched programs to create a talent pipeline for biomanufacturers. As a result, high school and college students and adults seeking a career change can gain the training and earn the certifications they need to enter the biomanufacturing workforce.

For Deborah Carr, the BioWork Certificate allowed her to find positions that fit her personal values.

“From the very first day, when the instructor started talking about safety and quality in the biomanufacturing industry, it just spoke to me,” said Carr. “It represented values that I share for myself. In my life, I have been more safe than sorry. That was the first thing that struck me from the very first class was the importance of safety.”

After completing the BioWork certificate program at Johnston Community College, Carr landed a contract position with Novo Nordisk.

Biopharma-driven programs lead training education

For decades, North Carolina has been a leader in biopharma manufacturing training, working closely with life sciences companies to deliver the talent needed to grow the industry. The state’s colleges and universities, working closely with life sciences organizations such as the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the North Carolina Biosciences Organization, have developed training and certificate programs to provide a skilled workforce for companies.

North Carolina BioNetwork is the North Carolina Community College System’s life sciences training initiative. The program partners with community colleges and life sciences companies to develop programs, including the leading BioWork certificate program, to ensure student skills match industry needs.

The BioWork Certificate is a 136-hour course that teaches students the foundation skills needed to begin a career as a process technician for a biotechnology, pharmaceutical or chemical manufacturing company. Offered at eight of the state’s community colleges, students earning the certificate are also provided access to job fairs and job boards to connect with life sciences companies.

After 20 years as a nursing assistant, Tara Cameron was looking for a new position in the health and life sciences fields. Today, after holding four positions in biopharma manufacturing, she recommends the BioWork certificate to others seeking a change.

“I recommend that others try the BioWork certificate program because there are vast opportunities out there if you complete it, and the pay is very competitive,” said Cameron, who received her certification at Wake Technical Community College.

University programs prepare undergrads for jobs in biopharma manufacturing

At North Carolina State and North Carolina Central universities, scientists and researchers are expanding the state’s reputation as a leader in biopharma manufacturing with facilities that combine teaching with hands-on research.

NC State’s Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center is a cross-disciplinary instructional center that provides educational and training opportunities to develop skilled professionals. BTEC operates two facilities on the university’s Centennial Campus that are home to $18 million of industry-standard equipment and a current Good Manufacturing Practice pilot plant to produce pharmaceutical products. As a result, BTEC provides hands-on learning experiences for undergraduates, graduate students and working professionals.

The Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise at NC Central offers bachelor's and graduate degree programs in pharmaceutical science. With more than 40 researchers based at its state-of-the-art facility, BRITE has a strong research focus, particularly in the areas of drug discovery and manufacturing technology.

BRITE also offers programs for K-12 students to instill an interest in the life sciences at an early age.

Learn more about these programs here.

Mindy Hamlin, NCBiotech Writer
Tue, 07/20/2021 - 15:53