The California bioscience sector employs more 300,000 skilled technicians, as well as at least an additional 600,000 related workers. Though the pandemic has negatively impacted many businesses across the state, the bioscience sector continues to expand, including efforts to develop, test, treat, and prevent COVID-19 infection. This project at Los Angeles Mission College focuses on two pressing needs: the acute industry demand for biotechnology lab assistants and technicians due to the pandemic, and the need of many individuals who lost their jobs to find new, sustainable employment. The demand for biotechnology workers has been growing for the past ten years, and the pandemic-driven demand for lab technicians, lab assistants and biotechnology technicians has only amplified it. At the same time, increased unemployment and job insecurity due to changing economic and social conditions are making displaced workers seek different, more sustainable employment options. The project aims to create a pathway for these individuals into biotechnology certification. With a focus on inclusion of veterans and individuals from communities that are underrepresented in STEM, the project aims to provide employment opportunities and increase the talent pool for a high demand, high growth sector.
The project will adapt the existing biotechnology certificates and Associate of Science degree programs and supplement these programs with new supports specifically to serve re-entering adult learners. The new supports will include a Bridge to Biotech workshop aimed at strengthening academic skills needed to succeed in science courses, and a Bridge to Employment workshop that prepares students for employment in the industry. Existing supports, such as tutoring, counseling, job readiness services, and industry internships will be modified to help adult students enter the workplace more quickly, while earning industry-recognized certifications along the way. The project will also conduct research and evaluation to determine how specific pathways, strategies, and activities affect participants’ success in completing the program and obtaining employment in biotechnology industry. The results are expected to increase knowledge about what works in retraining adults and helping them secure employment in the biotechnology industry. The project findings will be disseminated to a national audience to assist other organizations in creating pathways to technology careers for adults seeking reemployment. The 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.