Participants in the Bio-Link CXO Summit discussed the creative approaches that some colleges are using to provide hands-on work experience for their students.
The challenge of providing student work experience
Hands-on work experience plays a critical role in educating biotechnicians. Finding internships and work experiences however, can be a challenge. Hiring managers at biotech companies frequently harbor misconceptions about community college training and will often list a bachelors' degree as the minimum requirement for an entry-level lab technician job. Those misconceptions can be dispelled, but biotech companies' short life spans and frequently changing personnel make it difficult for education programs to establish and maintain long-term relationships with their local industry. Developing and maintaining company connections is a time-consuming endeavor that never ends. This on-going activity is especially challenging to small biotech programs where one person might be charged with all the teaching, advising, and support roles.
This report presents additional details about the different work experience models listed below and discussed recommendations for building a network to share information about these models and tools for adapting models to an individual region. Challenges such as balancing educational needs with industry requirements, dealing with intellectual property, avoiding competition, quality assurance, setting up legal agreements, and measuring economic impact are discussed in the report.
New Models for Student Work Experience
Community colleges have been exploring a variety of creative ways to provide work experience for their students.
Contract Research and Contract Manufacturing Organizations
Salt Lake Community College and Hagerstown Community College, started their own non-profit organizations InnovaBio and STUDENTfacturED. InnovaBio works on "back-burner" projects for companies, performing research and quality control testing. STUDENTfacturED manufactures reagents and prepares kits that are used by schools. Indian Hills Community College established a research and training arm (Iowa BioDevelopment) that provides consulting, training, and support services for Iowa bioenergy companies.
Another approach to making companies aware of biotech education programs and their students' abilities is to establish a location in the neighborhood. The Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) found a large company, Eurofins, to build a GMP facility on-site at the college. Having the company on-site gives the college ready access to a committed industry partner who will hire their students as interns. The college location and mirrored lab arrangement makes Eurofins well-aware of the college's training capacity and the abilities of the biotech program graduates.
Incubators at colleges and college labs in incubators: location, location, location
Some colleges have found that becoming a neighbor to one or more biotech companies smoothes the path to finding student work experiences. When a college program is located in close proximity to a company, the college becomes a familar part of the biotech ecosystem. Company personnel become more aware of the college's training capacity. Removing challenges like travel time and parking also makes it easier for company personnel to participate in advisory boards and form relationships with faculty.
Colleges have taken two approaches when it comes to biotech incubators. Colleges either incubate companies on campus or they establish campus labs in an incubator. In the case of Pasadena City College, the college owns a facility and rents space to several companies. Those companies hire PCC students as interns. Shoreline Community College and Austin Community College are other examples where a biotech company maybe located on site or may use equipment at the college lab from time to time. St. Louis Community College-Florrissant Valley is an example of a college lab with a presence in an incubator. By establishing a presence in a biotech incubator (BRDG park), STLCC-FV has become well known as a respected participant in the local biotech community. Utah's BioInnovations Gateway (BiG) is another example that demonstrates the benefits of having a student learning facility located in a business incubator.
Internships and College-Based Work Experience
Madison Area Technical College, Austin Community College, and City College of San Franciso have more traditional internship models for providing work experience. Their experiences and approaches are also described in the report.
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