Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, WRAL TechWire features a story highlighting the NC Bio Jobs Hub initiative. Go to the Bio Jobs Hub for more stories and info on life sciences job opportunities made possible by NC’s workforce training initiatives.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – After his son underwent open heart surgery, Edward McGill decided to make a career change to prioritize his son’s care. He also needed to ensure his family’s financial stability. These priorities led him to Johnston Community College’s (JCC) BioWork Certificate program.
The 136-hour program provides students with the required foundational skills for a career as a process technician in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals or chemical manufacturing. Courses focus on topics including the biotechnology industry, work safety, current good manufacturing processes (cGMP) and chemistry for process manufacturing, among others.
As McGill neared completion of his certificate, he landed a job with Holly Springs-based Seqirus. He credits his JCC instructors Roxanne Curry and Beverly Owens with their guidance as he pursued the position.
“Using my newly polished resume and interview skills gained from Roxanne, and the knowledge passed on to me by Bev, I landed the position at Seqirus,” said McGill. “Working here, I get the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of millions of Americans by shielding them from influenza every day.”
Each year, 160 students earn the BioWork certification from JCC, which also opens opportunities with other industry partners such as Novo Nordisk and Grifols.
“Novo Nordisk and Grifols both require the BioWork certificate for their entry-level jobs,” said Amanda Maynard, JCC’s biotechnology coordinator. “A lot of the companies require the BioWork certificate to ensure the applicant has some knowledge of what the companies want, including an understanding of the basic foundations of manufacturing.”
For JCC student Caitlin Braziel, the BioWork certificate program introduced her to a field she wanted to learn more about. Today, she is pursing JCC’s biotechnology processing degree, which extends students’ education in biopharma and expands their skills.
“Being in both the BioWork and bioprocessing technology programs has opened so many new opportunities for me, and for many others following through with these programs,” said Braziel. “Some of us have been given the chance to be the first in JCC’s new Bio Blend program, which provides us with a mixture of both bioprocessing technology and applied engineering.”
Industry partnerships drive Bio Blend program
JCC launched the Bio Blend project with industry partners Grifols and Novo Nordisk after being awarded a $283,880 National Science Foundation Advanced Technologies Education grant to train technicians in both biotechnology and applied engineering. The three-year project combines applied engineering and biotechnology curricula to create a multi-skilled talent pipeline from college to industry. Students also gain hands-on experience in a simulated drug manufacturing environment at the Johnston County Workforce Development Center in Clayton.
The project is in direct response to local biomanufacturing industry needs for a multi-skilled workforce.
“The manufacturing and pharmaceutical industry is misunderstood,” added Maynard. “There are various jobs from validation to quality available to students. For the students to see there are so many job opportunities, and that they are growing, it’s really good for them.”
Getting the job
In addition to training students for jobs in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, the BioWork program includes courses that help students write their resumes and prepare for job interviews.
According to career development Instructor Roxanne Curry, JCC is the only community college in the state to offer this job preparation assistance as part of Bio Work. She holds courses with students throughout the Bio Work certification process. After identifying students’ personality types using the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator, she focuses on resumes, interviews and LinkedIn profiles.
While some students enter the program with resumes, they often are not specific to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical fields.
“The industry has a specific layout they are looking for in a resume,” said Curry. “We are gearing students’ resumes directly to industry. In the end they have their professional resume ready to go and can use it at JCC job fairs and for the rest of their career.”
For students, the assistance with resumes and interviews has been an important part of the program.
“In the BioWork certificate program, you are not only provided with the education in the pharmaceutical industry but also top-notch techniques for resume writing and interviewing processes geared specifically toward the industry,” said Braziel. “Roxanne Curry not only helped me tremendously with my confidence by helping me to improve my interviewing skills, many times she also helped me revise my resume, even after I received my program certification.”
For more information on JCC’s biotechnology and applied engineering programs, visit JCC’s biotechnology programs website.