Montgomery College and the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), in conjunction with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), have completed two intensive pilot training programs designed to create a skilled talent pipeline to support the life sciences sector in Montgomery County. The four-week “Bio Boot Camp” program—a public-private effort announced in November 2020—was created to help kickstart recovery from the COVID-19 health crisis.
The pilot programs offered 22 participants opportunities for in-person learning experiences at each campus, commencing while both locations were closed for winter break. Plans are underway to identify additional resources and candidates to expand the program in the coming year.
Montgomery College launched its training on Jan. 11 to prepare participants for entry-level positions at interested local biotechnology companies. The class offered at the Bioscience Education Center on the Germantown campus met four days a week for four hours a day, totaling 64 contact hours.
Although many job vacancies preceded the pandemic, the most urgent need is filling jobs that support vaccine manufacturing, therapeutic manufacturing and diagnostic work. Montgomery College already had a biotechnology credit program that has helped place hundreds of workers in the sector. However, with demand increasing, it took the crucial aspects of its existing curriculum to create the boot camp.
"Taking this program from an idea to implementation and completion in such record time speaks to our ability to collaborate and take action to support the County’s critical workforce needs,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “This effort took an incredible level of coordination and teamwork. I particularly want to thank Doug Firstenberg, who chaired the Economic Advisory Group, and Angela Graham, president and CEO of Quality Biological, who worked so hard to make this program a reality. We look forward to expanding programs like these to support workers displaced by the pandemic and the talent pipeline of the burgeoning biotech industry of Montgomery County.”
The Bio Boot Camp effort was funded and implemented by Montgomery College, USG, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) and WorkSource Montgomery.
“The biotech industry was already looking for skilled workers, and the pandemic accelerated that need,” said Dr. DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College. “The industry offers career tracks with ample opportunities for growth. Montgomery College is proud to continue its tradition of providing educational offerings that support the needs of our County’s workforce.”
In addition to the Montgomery College program, the UMBC Translational Life Science Technology program at the Universities at Shady Grove also is a partner in the effort to meet the urgent demand for employees at all levels in the biotech industry. USG offered a post-graduate module of the initiative at the lab facilities in its recently opened Biomedical, Sciences and Engineering building. The program targeted displaced workers with a science background and offered job-ready, hands-on training.
“With state-of-the-art teaching facilities and incredible university partners such as UMBC to provide the coursework and training, USG can be a tremendous asset to Montgomery County in the effort to build the skilled workforce that is so urgently needed in the life sciences industry, especially now in the face of the pandemic,” said Dr. Anne Khademian, USG executive director and associate vice chancellor of the University System of Maryland. “We believe programs like this boot camp initiative will only strengthen our national profile as a center point where the biotechnology and life science sectors intersect with regulatory science agencies.”
Program graduates will participate in job counseling and placement services offered by WorkSource Montgomery. Future boot camps will be developed based on lessons learned and understood needs following graduate job placements.
“We want to make sure we are helping the large concentration of biotech companies that are already here and that are looking to move or expand to Montgomery County,” said Anthony Featherstone, executive director of WorkSource Montgomery. “We believe the Bio Boot Camp is a prime example of synergies that exist throughout the County. This partnership will serve as a model in the development of future training programs in high-growth sectors for our displaced workers.”
MCEDC, a key financial supporter of the program, sees the Bio Boot Camp program as a way to drive economic expansion in the County.
“One of the biggest needs for businesses is the talent pipeline. We have a real edge here in Montgomery County with both our skilled workforce and educational assets,” said Benjamin H. Wu, president and CEO of MCEDC. “The ability of all the partners to quickly develop and fill these bio boot camps is a real testament to our County’s collaborative spirit and a desire to support both businesses and the community.”
More about the Bio Boot Camp program can be seen in videos at https://tinyurl.com/3p8h863c and at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAIBPYnh1j4.