Frederick Community College Develops Industry-oriented Pipeline Programs for Talent Recruitment

We previously highlighted the need for industry-academia partnerships to recruit and retain talent in the BioHealth Capital Region. As qualified life sciences job candidates continue to be in high demand in the region, institutes such as Frederick Community College (FCC)  have stepped up to the plate to help fill the local talent pipeline and diversify the next generation of the workforce. 

Academic programs geared towards preparing students for a career in the industry need to meet the updated needs of pharma/biotech. These program structures should also be flexible in order to encourage enrollment from students with a diverse range of backgrounds and career interests. Frederick Community College offers three levels of biotechnology programs options for students: an Associates degree (60 credits), a Certificate program (35 credits),  Letter of Recognition in biotechnology (8 credits). 

These programs prepare individuals to work as process operators in biological products manufacturing facilities. Through a combination of lectures and hands-on training, students develop a strong basic science foundation with a sound understanding of the major up-to-date technologies employed in the pharma/biotech industry. The flexible nature of the programs allows students to take classes while working full-time. Many of the hands-on lab classes are scheduled during the evening. The theoretical coursework also includes guest lectures from leaders and student alumni working in the industry, who share insights into the upcoming trends in the industry and their experience working in the industry. Upon successful completion of the program, graduates possess the necessary skills to qualify for employment in a variety of bioprocessing industries, particularly within the BioHealth Capital Region.

“More initiatives and involvement from industry through sponsoring events, guest lectures, field trips etc will help motivate students towards the field. FCC, our partners and other academic institutes must collaborate together to meet the needs of the industry”

-Savita Prabharkar (Assistant Professor and Biotechnology Program Manager, FCC)

Following approval from the Maryland Department of Labor, FCC also recently launched a first-of-its-kind Biotechnology Apprenticeship Program, which will enable students to earn, learn and train at the same time. The program duration is 3 years and comprises 2000 hours/year of full-time on-the-job training (with competitive employee benefits) and 144 hours of academic coursework (tuition is fully covered by the participating industry). Currently, three Frederick companies – VaLogic, Texcell, and Kite Pharma – are participating in the program.  The benefits for these industry partners are that they can build and retain their future workforce, increase manufacturing productivity, and receive tax benefits and financial incentives from the State of Maryland. Students who complete the program graduate with an Associates degree and are almost always hired permanently by their apprenticeship employers. 

FCC has also partnered with Project Lead The Way to provide informational and transformative learning experiences for PreK-12 students and teachers in Frederick County. Another exciting program to be launched by FCC during Fall 2021 is the first phase of the Logistics and Production Technology Program that will prepare the workforce to support logistics and manufacturing companies in Frederick County. The three offered tracks will include- Logistics, Biotech Systems, and Manufacturing Technology. Students who complete this non-credit program will be prepared to enter jobs in the supply chain, biotech, and manufacturing industries.

Initiatives such as these will bolster the recruitment and retention of a diverse pool of local talent. However, it will be important for academic leaders, industry partners, and collaborators to keep updating and improving industry-related activities. To this effect, FCC has formed the Biotechnology Project Advisory Board that meets twice a year with local industry and community partners (including workforce services, economic development office, and 4-year colleges like Hood and Mount Saint Mary). The meetings are geared toward discussing and gaining feedback on FCC’s biotech programs, new courses, and initiatives that the program has in the pipeline. 

“I think that the advisory board is critical for industry and academia partnership and a platform where all partners can meet at the same time and contribute actively to improve and align the program to meet the industry’s workforce needs. Engagement of the industry in developing a relevant curriculum would benefit the college, program, community, and biotech industry” 

-Savita Prabharkar (Assistant Professor and Biotechnology Program Manager, FCC)

At the most recent Advisory Board meeting in June 2021, useful feedback and ideas were shared on the various pipeline programs and initiatives organized at FCC. Stakeholders and collaborators will continue to engage in more discussions and more programs from other community colleges and institutes are expected to develop over the next few years. Stay tuned for more updates!