5 Philadelphia organizations team up for new biotech training program
As the Greater Philadelphia area continues to grow in life science prowess, its need for trained professionals to support the industry also increases. Five local organizations want to facilitate the access of people without a higher education diploma to biotechnology.
To this end, The Wistar Institute, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, Iovance Biotherapeutics, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce just announced their partnership for a paid workforce development program called Biomedical Technician Training Program: Aseptic Manufacturing.
The news continues the tradition of launching equity-conscious workforce development programs in University City, home to many life science research organizations — and employers. It also follows a 2020 Workforce Talent Study conducted by the CEO Council for Growth and the University City Science Center which revealed that over the next decade, cell and gene therapy jobs in the region could more than double, from around 5,000 to 11,000.
The aseptic manufacturing program is 22 weeks long and will include 10 weeks of evening classes from the Wistar Institute, a UCity-based biomedical research organization. This training will cover the basics of cellular and molecular biology. Students will then move on to a full-time laboratory orientation at the Wistar Institute. The final phase of the program is a 10-week externship with Iovance Biotherapeutics, as students will work at Iovance iCTC (Cellular Therapy Center) at the shipyard.
Throughout the program, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative will provide professional development training for students. PIDC is connected for its Shipyard Skills Initiativethat connects Philadelphians with employers located in the South Philadelphia hub.
This pilot program will accept 18 students, all of whom must be adult residents of Philadelphia, have a high school diploma or GED and pass tests at the 12th grade level in reading, literacy and math. Once the participants are chosen, the program will start on September 22 and run until March 2023.
Upon completion of the training, the partners say, students will be qualified to apply for jobs as aseptic manufacturing associate technicians. These technicians are responsible for maintaining sterile laboratories, assembling sterile products, storing supplies, and documenting biomedical manufacturers’ processes.
Applications are open until Friday, September 9 at 5 p.m.
Some candidates who complete the program will have the opportunity to interview for a full-time position with Iovance.
“We are excited to help introduce a wider range of Philadelphians to career options in biotech and hope this new program can serve as a model for our industry peers to increase workforce inclusiveness. biotechnology work and its career development opportunities,” Iovance said. Tracy WintonSVP of Human Resources, in a press release.
The Wistar Institute has been running its Biomedical Technician Training Program for over 20 years, and in the spring of 2021 issued a call for scaling up and downsizing training to get more students into jobs faster by as laboratory technicians or research assistants. Dr. Dario AltieriPresident and CEO of the Wistar Institute, said this new program is an extension of the existing program and aligns with Wistar’s strategic plan to make the scientific workforce more diverse and inclusive.
“Wistar’s collaborations with public and private partners create a new paradigm for workforce development to support the continued growth of Philadelphia’s life sciences industry,” said Altieri.
“As excited as we are about the upcoming cohort, we definitely have our eyes on the horizon,” said the House’s Vice President of Economic Competitiveness, Sarah Stetz. “For us to capitalize on the opportunities we see in life sciences, we are going to have to think differently as an ecosystem. We will have to work differently. It will require collaboration not only between labor organizations and employers, but also government, philanthropy and higher education.