An urgent need exists for a highly trained, diverse life sciences research workforce to support the rapidly expanding U.S. biotechnology industry. To address this need, this award will enable Wistar Institute to entirely re-design an existing hands-on, mentored technician training program and expand it to additional community colleges. The project will provide students with research experiences required for employment as technicians in biomedical research. Students will participate in an accelerated, paid summer program that includes pre-apprenticeship training, a hands-on Orientation at Wistar, and two full-time mentored laboratory experiences. Program graduates will be prepared for immediate employment as laboratory technicians or for advanced training through Wistar’s Biomedical Research Technician Apprenticeship program. The project aims to engage a diverse and underrepresented student population in life sciences research, while offering a direct path to employment as a laboratory technician. The project will address the compelling need to prepare community college students who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic for employment in the skilled biotechnology workforce. This program can also serve as a model for other community colleges and scientific research partners.
The project has three primary goals: 1) Expand to recruit more students, including those from new community college partners, while developing articulation agreements that make the project a credit-bearing experience; 2) Develop a novel project-based curriculum that more effectively engages students, especially those from underrepresented groups, in biotechnology research skills training; and 3) Redesign the existing two-summer program as a one-summer experience that includes full-time internships in both academic and industry labs. The project will use Wistar’s interactive trainee website to maintain data, measure student outcomes, track career development, and provide networking opportunities. The project will also compare participation and outcomes of students in Wistar’s existing two-summer program with those in the new one-summer option. The project plans to map specific skills and competency standards, as well as disseminate training models and materials. It is anticipated that the project can provide a blueprint for incorporating biotechnician pre-apprenticeship training into biotechnology and science curricula at community colleges, while serving as a model for regional program expansion.
Kristy McGuire (Principal Investigator)