Collaborative to Strengthen Work-Based Learning in Biotech

People talking to each other for networking at a City College of San Francisco event

Although technical training at community colleges can prepare students for work in the biotechnology industry, industry and academic employers are sometimes hesitant to hire students with less than bachelor-level degrees. Successful internship programs that integrate work-based learning and undergraduate research experiences can increase the competitiveness of community college-trained students for these positions. The City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is collaborating with the Office of Career Planning and Development at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to address this problem. This collaboration aims to align the Biotechnology Internship program at CCSF with the PhD-level Mentor Training program at UCSF. The CCSF students will work on research projects under supervision of UCSF mentors, while both are being trained on how to build effective mentor/intern relationships. In this way, the project will support productive relationships between UCSF mentors and their CCSF interns. This collaborative mentor/intern model is expected to help the interns develop technical and employability skills, and help mentors enhance their ability to train and supervise a diverse workforce.

The goals of this project are to increase the number of CCSF interns who work with trained UCSF mentors and to improve the quality of the intern-mentor relationship. The project aims to achieve these goals through an evidence-based, iterative approach to curriculum and program development by:

a) identifying the needs of the CCSF students and their UCSF mentors;
b) modifying the CCSF Internship and UCSF Mentor Training programs to respond to unaddressed needs; and
c) examining whether joint interventions to align both training curricula improves the intern's and mentor's experience.

The project includes a research component that can contribute new knowledge about and understanding of practices that increase the success of mentored research experiences. Furthermore, enhanced curricula, interventions, and tools identified by this project can be used more broadly to develop and enhance professional development for internship programs, graduate and postdoctoral training of mentors, faculty training, and industry professional training, with a focus on improved retention of diverse student populations.

The collaboration between CCSF and UCSF supported by this grant has led to:

  • Co-development of a UCSF research mentor training program (TRAIN-UP) - over 300 UCSF researchers have now participated in this training
  • Alignment of the mentor training program and UCSF professional development tools with CCSF's Bioscience internship program support courses
  • Development of a CCSF-UCSF Inclusive Mentoring Fellowship Program which encourages new mentors interested in developing inclusive and effective mentoring skills to work with CCSF Biotechnology students (Spring 2020 cohort)
  • Publication of a peer-reviewed manuscript published in the Inclusive Science issue of JMBE outlining inclusive practices in research mentoring, including the potential effects on community college students engaged in internships
  • Development of a training pathway for UCSF researchers to counter inequities in the lab and lead in systemic and equitable changes in science 

Articles about our UCSF-CCSF internship mentor-mentees and their experiences can be found here. Additionally, the SRI Education group has highlighted this work as an example of "targeted coaching skills that both technician instructors and employers need to know to be successful" in this webinar here. For an overview of the project please watch our 2020 HI-TEC Presentation: Engaging Industry: Promoting Equity, Access & Inclusivity for Increased Retention and Productivity

By expanding the discussion of work-based learning to include ways that it can help build mentoring/supervising skills and thereby increase lab productivity, we have found that industry partners are more receptive to working collaboratively with us.  They see an opportunity to diversify and sustain their workforce with people from the local community.  Through our internship program (a model of work-based learning), they are strategizing with us to help mitigate the challenges of placing students with minimal experience in highly technical workplaces.  We have developed many resources to help them better train and supervise entry-level employees which, of course, benefits our students, but also benefits the organization hosting them: the internship is an opportunity for their personnel to develop these vital supervisory and training skills.  

Resources developed through this project can be found on the Collaborative for Work-Based Learning Website

Project PI: 
James Lewis
Host Organization: City College of San Francisco
Other Collaborators: 

University of California, San Francisco

Project Contact Info: 
City College of San Francisco
33 Gough Street
San Francisco CA 94103-1214