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DOL Provides $17.2M for National Biotech Initiative

July 12, 2004

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) launched last month a $17.2 million national Biotechnology Worker Training Initiative in support of the President’s High Growth Job Training Initiative.

“This $17.2 million in training funds will recruit and train workers for jobs in the biotechnology field, which is expected to be one of the fastest growing sectors by 2012,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.

An initial award of $2.4 million was made to the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG), a public-private partnership dedicated to Western Pennsylvania's life sciences industry. Chao said the grant to PLSG would help increase awareness about promising biotech-related careers in the state, while addressing the need for skilled workers.

As part of the project, PLSG will try to match trained workers with local biotech companies by developing curriculum and training that aims to shape workers with a “hybrid” of desired capabilities. The project will integrate various industry skills sets and academic disciplines. Key partners include Renal Solutions Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pa., the Community College of Allegheny County, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the Allegheny County Workforce Investment Board and the Allegheny County Job Link.

A subsequent award of $5 million was made to Forsyth Technical Community College (FTCC) in Winston-Salem, N.C., which is partnering with four other community colleges from around the country. The DOL grant is designed to enable each of the five colleges, considered biotechnology centers of excellence, to focus on a specific area of biotech training. Combined, the schools will make in-kind contributions totaling nearly $7.5 million.

While FTCC focuses on biotech research and development in the Southeast, New Hampshire Technical College will concentrate on biomanufacturing in the Northeast. Indian Hills Community College in Iowa will emphasize agriculture and food processing in the Midwest, Bellevue Community College in Washington State will provide training in bioinformatics in the Northwest, and Miracosta Community College in San Diego will highlight bioprocessing in the Southwest.

The DOL announcement involving the five colleges was preceded earlier last month by a $320,000 biomanufacturing training grant to FTCC and another community college, awarded by the Golden LEAF Foundation. Together, the five institutions will establish a National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce, Chao said. Their partnership is intended to serve as a national model for other schools throughout the country, she added.

The High Growth Job Training Initiative is a strategic effort to better prepare workers to take advantage of new job opportunities in high growth sectors of the U.S. economy. The initiative, in part, addresses workforce challenges facing the biotech industry. More information is available at: http://www.doleta.gov/BRG/JobTrainInitiative/