Building Biobadges Into a Traditional Biology Program to Fulfill Workforce Needs and Support Program Equity

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This project aims to serve the national need for a well-prepared biotechnology workforce. It will do so by developing new lab modules based on industry-recognized skills for each course in the biology major sequence. Students will be able to earn badges that certify their mastery of each workforce-relevant skill. Accumulation of badges will lead to Certificates of Completion, which will provide concise information about a student's proficiencies. This approach incorporates technician education into a traditional biology program that has a current focus on preparation of its graduates for transfer into four-year institutions. By expanding the program focus to include preparation of students for technical careers, this approach is intended to address an important workforce need in the San Francisco Bay Area. This new pathway is expected to open the biotechnology program to more students and to promote completion of the entire biology major sequence as students accumulate critical workforce skills. Because the college serves a large Latinx student population, this approach is likely to contribute to broadening participation in the biotechnology field. The project has the potential to provide a novel model that might be replicated by academic biology programs interested in meeting local workforce needs for biotechnology technicians.

To achieve its goal of embedding relevant technician education into the biology program, the project will develop lab modules and badge requirements in collaboration with local biotechnology industry partners. With input from the advisory board and local industry surveys, the project has identified needed technical skills. These skills, such as micropipetting, DNA and protein extraction and purification, and enzyme-linked immunoassay, will be the foundation of the modules and badges. The lab modules will become part of each course, thereby ensuring that all students develop biotechnology skills. Although the badges will not be required, they will be strongly recommended, especially for students considering temporary or career-long work as technicians in the local workforce. Badging will support many students by providing a pathway of incremental and achievable steps embedded in course completion. Pairing badges with in-class career-development activities and providing industry examples (through speaker series and other events) will provide a new, clear career pathway into biotechnology within the existing biology major. In addition to developing the labs and badges, the project will support technician-level biotechnology education with targeted recruiting at the college and the local high schools, and by collaborating with employers to secure paid internships and job placements.

Project PI: 
Darcy Ernst, PhD
Host Organization: Las Positas College
Other Collaborators: 
Michal Shuldman, PhD
Grant number: DUE 2000573
Project Contact Info: 
Las Positas Community College District Livermore CA