Photo of scientists in a lab smiling at each other

Frederick Biotech Bootcamp Kicks Off to Train Tomorrow’s Life Science Professionals

Following in the footsteps of Montgomery and Baltimore counties, Frederick County will hold its first Biotech Bootcamp program this upcoming January and February. A joint project between Frederick Community College, Workforce Services, the Office of Economic Development, and the City of Frederick Department of Economic Development, the first Frederick Biotech Bootcamp will provide 15 participants with the opportunity to learn the basics of the biotechnology industry.

In addition to the public institutions hosting the program, businesses Kite, Lonza, Ellume, AstraZeneca, Texcell, and VaLogic are partnering and have agreed to interview all 15 of the program’s graduates. The positions the businesses are looking to hire for include biorepository technicians, cell culture technicians, manufacturing associates, kitting technicians, and quality control analysts. 

“We need qualified employees to fill the positions that these businesses are bringing to our community,” said Latrice Lewis, Business & Employment Consultant at Frederick County Workforce Services, during a recent online information session for the bootcamp. 

The bootcamp will run four weeks, with each week focusing on a different topic in biotech, including regulation, basic skills, and communication. The classes will run from January 19 to February 15. While the application cycle for this upcoming cohort has passed, the team is already working on scheduling another class to run in the spring. 

The goal is not only to help businesses find qualified employees, but to provide the students with a defined life sciences career path. Lewis explained that many of the participating businesses work with their employees to create personal development plans that go beyond just a paycheck. 

Maggie Beachy, a process specialist at Lonza in Walkersville, explained how she found herself in the biotech industry after pursuing zoology and zookeeping. While she loved her job, she knew that it could not become a sustainable full-time career. She found a job at Lonza through a family friend and entered as an entry-level media formulation technician.

Although she had studied biology at Salisbury University, she still required a decent amount of training to get up to speed on the company’s protocols. 

“I did not know of the biotech world. I had no idea what GMP meant,” Beachy shared. “I was trained on everything and I slowly worked my way up from the entry-level to a mid-level formulation technician.”

Now a level II process specialist, Beachy is working toward her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification with the help of Lonza. She’s found her niche within the biotechnology field, and is grateful her employer is helping her continue to develop her skills. 

“There are many different directions you can go in, and they will train you for those directions,” Beachy explained. “We have a professional development plan we work on every year throughout the year with our direct supervisors, and they work with us one-on-one on our career goals.”

Dr. Savita Prabhakar, the biotech program manager at FCC, and Lewis said that they will be looking for a willingness to learn and ability to communicate from applicants. Beachy agreed that these two skills will aid those who are interested in learning more about the biotechnology field. 

Beyond the bootcamp, Frederick Community College also offers a few different programs in biotech outside of an associate degree, including the biotech systems and maintenance program, lasting one semester, and the biotech certificate program, which lasts three semesters.

“There’s a big support team behind you to help you get going and help you move forward in this particular area,” Lewis said.