Photo of scientists in a lab smiling at each other

Frederick County Launches Second Biotech Bootcamp After First Round’s Success

Following the great success of its first round, Frederick County will hold its second Biotech Bootcamp at Frederick Community College beginning May 16. The month-long program is free to attend and plans to accept 15 applicants.

Several biotech companies worked with Frederick to design the Biotech Bootcamp curriculum and interviewed participants after the month-long program, which they will do again this round. Of the 14 students who completed the first Biotech Bootcamp, ten have landed positions at Frederick County biotech companies, including Lonza, Ellume, and Kite Pharma. Some also accepted positions at Rockville-based Meso Scale Diagnostics

“Overall, it was a really fun experience. And the best part is when you see that these folks are pursuing jobs, and they were able to switch their careers,” said Dr. Savita Prabhakar, Frederick Community College Biotechnology Program Manager. “The goal of the camp was realized.”

Most students accepted positions that paid about $22-$25 per hour, according to a press release. Positions obtained include QC Media Documentation Specialist I, QA Technician 1, and Formulation Technician I. 

Latrice Lewis, Business & Employment Specialist with Frederick County Workforce Services, shared that while she expected to see students obtain entry-level positions, she was impressed that many found slightly more advanced roles by using their transferable skills from other industries.

“We have an opportunity in this partnership to continue to develop individuals for the pipeline that’s needed in the bioindustry here,” Lewis said. “For participants one of the great things is, it’s allowing them to move into or get into an industry that provides a livable wage for them and their families. So it literally can change their personal economy.”

Some “graduates” of the Biotech Bootcamp also received micro-credentials in biotech-related topics. A micro-credential is a short, competency-based recognition, sometimes called a micro degree.

Alda Rivera completed the first Biotech Bootcamp, coming from a background in retail. During the pandemic’s shutdowns, she had more time to consider what she wanted to do next. When her husband suggested looking into the Bootcamp, she was interested but thought she wouldn’t be able to do it because her background wasn’t in science.

But she was accepted to the program and quickly found that she had many transferable skills that aided her in biotech. 

“Throughout the journey I had in my previous jobs, I have gained transferable skills whether they’re soft skills or hard skills, that can be used in different ways,” she said.

She especially enjoyed working with Dr. Prabhakar, who she said was very understanding that many of the students were still working other jobs during the program. One of the four weeks was spent at VaLogic in Frederick, working hands-on in a clean room, which helped the students understand exactly what they might be doing in a future job. 

At the end of the program, Meso Scale Diagnostics hired Rivera as a Manufacturing Tech I. 

“It’s never too late to dream a new dream so if you want to go into biotech, there are so many possibilities within [each] company that you’re going to find a place for yourself,” Rivera said.

Mary Ford-Naill, the Economic Development Manager with The City of Frederick, pointed out that the many companies opening sites in Frederick, such as Ellume, will bring more jobs to the area. 

The goal of the Biotech Bootcamp is to bridge the gap to help teach viable candidates the skills employers seek, assisting both Frederick County’s employers and residents. 

“And we know there’s a lot more coming with the development of properties like Progress Labs and some of the other projects in Frederick,” Ford-Naill said. “So we know there’s a lot of opportunity coming down the pipeline.”

The next Biotech Bootcamp will run from May 16 to June 10, four hours a day, four days a week. Each session includes hands-on training and general education about the biotech industry, and no prior education is necessary. 

“If you have an interest… in a change of career paths and looking at biotechnology opportunities, this could be a really exciting opportunity for you to take advantage of very quickly and be able to make that leap into a really exciting career path,” said Ford-Naill.