Residents of Bloomington, IN may now register for a free three-week training in skills program needed to gain employment in the region’s biomanufacturing sector. Supported in part with funding from the City of Bloomington’s Recover Forward Phase 1, the Biomanufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program was developed by Hoosier Hills Career Center, in partnership with Ivy Tech, WorkOne, and industry partners Catalent and Boston Scientific.
Instruction will take place October 5–23 at the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences on the Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington campus. Classes meet Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Prospective participants may register at ivytech.com/bloomington/workforce until October 1.
Once the registration reaches its 28-student capacity, names of subsequent applicants will be added to a waitlist for participation in one of several subsequent sessions, beginning in spring 2021.
“Bloomington’s flourishing life sciences sector presents a very real opportunity for advancement for un- and under-employed residents who’ve been especially impacted by COVID fallout,” says Mayor John Hamilton. “We’re excited to partner with local education and industry leaders for this exciting initiative to help more residents skill up for good paying jobs.”
The 110-hour, three-week course features two weeks of biomanufacturing-specific content and one week of soft skills content and includes an interview process with local manufacturers. Curriculum for the program was developed over the past year by Brenda Duncan-Davis, director, industry outreach, at Hoosier Hills Career Center, and Adam Gross, director of industry outreach and personal enrichment at Ivy Tech, in consultation with local biotech industry professionals to determine the skills that would best equip applicants for employment.
The course complies with industry standards for current Good Manufacturing Processes (cGMP) and federal guidelines for a Biomanufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program.
Development of the course began in July 2019, well in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the demand for workers in Bloomington’s biotech sector has risen dramatically, according to local officials. Since the spring, Catalent has been in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna to prepare to manufacture lead COVID-19 vaccine candidates at its Bloomington facility, an undertaking that will require the addition of at least 300 workers.
A pilot version of the apprenticeship program graduated its first cohort of 14 students in July 2020. Upon completion, each participant reportedly received multiple job offers, as well as the ability to become a certified Biomanufacturing Technician after completing 1,800 total hours of on- and off-the-job training.
“I applaud the City of Bloomington for its foresight on establishing such a program,” says John Sterling, editor-in-chief of GEN. “Biotech technicians at all levels, including biomanufacturing, will be needed in more numbers as the industry continues to develop new biotherapeutics, biofuels, and other products. I’m hoping the Bloomington program will encourage other cities to follow.”
Sterling was one of 50 participants invited to take part in a conference in Scottsdale, AZ, in April 2008 sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the American Association of Community Colleges to address the skills shortage in the bioindustry. The results of the conference are summarized in a report entitled “Educating Biotechnicians for Future Industry Needs,” published in 2008 by the American Association of Community Colleges.