26 Jan 2009

College launches program to train people for biotech jobs

Barry felt a special bond with the room full of strangers whom she was addressing.

Like them, she knows what it means to change careers.

“I was once where you’re sitting right now,” Ms. Barry said at a recent orientation for 19 students who will participate in a new 15-week program to train people for jobs in biomanufacturing.

The program, which begins Monday at the Mount Wachusett Community College facility in Devens, is funded through a $1.6 million U.S. Department of Labor Grant. All the sessions will be held there.

Ms. Barry, director of quality control for Bionostics’ Devens facility, explained that she was once a teacher. “During Prop 2-1/2 my job was eliminated. I decided to go back to school. I had a background in biology. So I did it, and here I am today.

“I know you’re probably nervous, a little uncertain,” the Mount Wachusett alumna said during the orientation. “The fact that you’re here, I think, is commendable. You’re taking the first steps and that’s great.”

Classroom instruction and practical laboratory sessions will be combined to give students skills and knowledge for manufacturing and quality-control positions in biotech.

“The economy is going to turn around and when it does, the region of the country that has the best educated work force will come out of this recession sooner than other parts of the country,” said MWCC president Daniel M. Asquino.

Mr. Asquino told the students of the large investment the college has made in the physical plant. “All of this is new,” he said pointing to the laboratory the students will be working in. “And in many cases you’re going to be the first students who will be using this equipment.”

“The investment was made because we realize the role our college plays in providing an educated work force for the region,” Mr. Asquino said.

Lara Dowland, chairwoman of the college’s Biotechnology, Biomanufacturing Department, noted the tremendous potential for growth in the industry. “This industry is not at full realization yet, so the job opportunities will continue to grow for graduates.”

Recruitment will begin March 15 for the second work force training program session, scheduled to begin in August.

Recent high school graduates as well as career-changers with a strong background in mathematics, biology and chemistry are eligible to apply for the program.

Classes will be three days a week, seven hours a day, at the Devens campus.

The program will be repeated the next three years for six 15-week sessions. The grant covers student tuition, fees, equipment and supplies. Students will buy their own textbook, which they retain as reference.

Information sessions on the program will be Feb. 9 and March 9 at 5:30 p.m. at the Devens campus, 27 Jackson Road.

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.


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