The life sciences/biotechnology sector has continued to remain resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Los Angeles region generating $60.8 billion in economic activity in 2020 and hosting more than 1,000 life science innovation companies. It is projected that 16,000 regional technical jobs will be added to this rapidly growing sector within the next three years. The acceleration of the widening supply-and-demand gap, along with the growing awareness that community colleges produce competitive and highly skilled technicians, emphasizes the necessity to develop projects that focus on life sciences/biotechnology technician education to prepare students to become the next generation of highly skilled workers in this dynamic sector. Therefore, this project focusing on Cell Science and Immunological Testing will recruit and train 30 students from diverse and traditionally untapped pools of talent, including system impacted and justice involved students, resulting in 30 industry internship matches and award up to 60 certificates that are part of a career education pathway consisting of two stackable certificates. The project will align academic offerings with industry needs based on the input from an advisory council. Students will be trained in a curriculum that focuses on essential knowledge, state-of-the-art technical skills, and industry-required soft skills. Students will also receive an introduction to nanobiotechnology concepts and their applications in the cell science/gene therapy and immunological testing industries.
In this project, Santa Monica College (SMC) will: 1) produce two stackable certificates that will enable students to successfully enter the rapidly growing life sciences/biotechnology industries in the greater Los Angeles region, 2) expand outreach, recruitment, and retention efforts to students from traditionally untapped pools of talent and communities, and 3) grow a diverse and talented workforce while reducing the training, mentorship, and employment equity gaps often associated with the life science/biotechnology industry. Students benefiting from this project will complete 22 units (5 courses) to earn their first stackable certificate and can opt to complete 15 additional units (4 courses) to obtain a second certificate. Regardless of their academic pathway, all participating students will receive an industry appointed mentor and complete an internship. The scope of this project also aims to inform 40 SMC students from special counseling programs, 150 pre-college educators, and four full-time SMC career and academic counselors about the biotechnology industry through planned outreach activities. Finally, mobile biotechnology exploration days will provide 210 pre-college students who are justice-involved or from low-income communities with hands-on activities, information about this project, and employment opportunities available to them in the life sciences/biotechnology sector. The results generated from this project will be disseminated through regional and national conferences, NSF ATE Center platforms, and the California Community College network.