The nation’s capital region, including Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., is an expanding hub of biotechnology innovation and industry. Consequently, the number of biotechnology jobs is projected to increase in the region, as well as nationally. Despite the growing workforce demand, the public has a limited understanding of the biotechnology field or its promising career options. In addition, high school students, including students from economically challenged, underrepresented, and/or rural backgrounds, have limited exposure to the range of possible college and career choices. This project aims to increase the number and diversity of biotechnicians entering the workforce. To achieve this goal, the project will engage students and their families in workshops to improve their understanding of biotechnology as a vibrant career and to raise awareness of other educational and career opportunities. The project will target high schools with majority-minority enrollment and/or rural status, thus increasing opportunities to enroll students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM and in college-level biotechnology programs. This project has the potential to provide opportunities for upward socioeconomic mobility for the members of underrepresented communities in STEM by equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed in biotechnology careers.
To address the growing industry demand, the project specific aims include to: (1) develop an associate degree in STEM with a concentration in biotechnology; (2) refresh the curriculum of an existing biotechnology certificate; (3) increase awareness of biotechnology careers and the number and diversity of students completing biotechnology curricula; and (4) provide summer internships for students to develop employability skills in biotechnology. The project includes partnerships with local public-school districts to recruit students into a newly created associate degree in STEM with a concentration in biotechnology. In collaboration with local industry partners, the project will provide summer internships to help students gain professional, field-specific, and career-readiness skills. The project expects to increase and diversify the biotechnology workforce by engaging high school students and their families in community-based outreach events that use hands-on biotechnology activities. Academic and career information, including degree programs, job descriptions, and salaries, will be disseminated at these events. Additionally, the project will create summer professional development opportunities emphasizing biotechnology for high school teachers and a week-long summer institute on the Harford Community College campus for high school students considering biotechnology as a career option. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program that focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced technology fields that drive the nation’s economy.