January 9, 2009
This month, the first of three programs for area residents interested in taking a new, free biomanufacturing training program will kick off at Mount Wachusett Community College.
The Biomanufacturing Workforce Training Program is funded through a $1.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant that will create an opportunity for approximately 100 area residents by providing a total of six 15-week sessions over the next three years.
The new workforce training program incorporates input from the industry to focus on the specific job skills needed for immediate employment.
Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is currently building a $750 million biomanufacturing plant in Devens, is providing key representatives to an advisory board that meets regularly with MWCC staff to discuss the curriculum status and needs. Additionally, BMS has arranged to donate equipment to the program that will allow students access to instrumentation they will use when employed.
Program administrators are also working with other Massachusetts biotechnology companies, including New England Peptide in Gardner and Bionostics in Devens.
"We are developing relationships throughout the industry to enable us to best understand industry needs and to provide specific pathways to employment for our students," said Program Manager John Henshaw, an instructor in the workforce training program. "We feel fortunate to have this program. At a time of national and global economic crisis, we are working with an industry that anticipates continued growth locally in the coming years."
A major part of the new program is to reach out to the local community to encourage people to consider pursuing careers in biomanufacturing, said Danielle Thompson, program coordinator and instructor.
"We are reaching out directly to high schools within Mount Wachusett's service area, as well as through the college's access and preparation programs, to let students know that this opportunity exists," she said.
Adults looking to change careers also make up a significant percent of the incoming class.
The curriculum will focus on providing students an enriched, handson learning experience to support employment in the biomanufacturing industry. Combining classroom instruction and practical laboratory sessions, the courses will provide students with necessary skills and knowledge to qualify as candidates for operations manufacturing positions and quality assurance/ control positions.
Students also will gain an understanding of how the industry operates, as well as additional career opportunities within the industry.
The first group of 19 students will start the program, which is designed to prepare them for employment in this burgeoning biomanufacturing field. The first group of students enrolled in the new workforce development program will begin classes on Jan. 26.
"These are the jobs of the future," said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. "This new workforce development program will help boost the economy in Massachusetts, especially during these recessionary times, and will provide a career ladder for advancement in the biomanufacturing industry. We see this as a program that is complimentary to our one-year certificate and two-year associate degree programs in this field."
The students who complete the Biomanufacturing Workforce Training Program will be ready to enter the workforce and can transfer up to 10 credits toward MWCC's two existing biotechnology/ biomanufacturing academic programs.
Those residents that are recent high school graduates, as well as careerchangers with a strong background in math, biology and chemistry, are eligible to apply for a seat in the rigorous program.
Classes will be held three days a week, for seven hours each day, at MWCC's Devens campus. The Devens campus has a recently-furnished area that has cutting edge equipment through the same federal Community- Based Job Training grant.
The grant covers student tuition, fees, equipment and supplies. Students will purchase their own textbook, which they retain as a reference tool.
The second workforce training program will begin recruiting students for the second session on March 15. The second session is scheduled to begin in August.
Prospective applicants who need to hone skills in math and science to qualify for the highly competitive program are encouraged to enroll in courses in these subjects during the spring semester, which begins Jan. 20.
In addition to recruiting for the new workforce training program, MWCC provides ongoing, open enrollment for the certificate and associate degree programs. Upcoming information sessions about all three programs will take place on Jan. 12, Feb. 9 and March 9 at 5:30 p.m. at the Devens campus.
Prospective students interested in obtaining information about the Biomanufacturing Workforce Training Program should contact Tami Morin at 978-630-9578 or tmorin@ mwcc.mass.edu.