Novo Nordisk Donates $6 Million to Durham Tech Workforce Training Center
By Alex Keown
March 3, 2023
Pharma giant Novo Nordisk increased its support for Durham Technical Community Collegeand its Biotechnology Manufacturing program through a $6 million donation to support the construction and outfitting of a new 35,000-square-foot Life Sciences Training Center that will train a new generation of talent.
The donation, the largest in the college’s history, will expand Durham Tech’s existing Biotechnology Biomanufacturing program. The training program, which offers hands-on learning, will be allow the school to expand its degree curricula and short-term workforce training programs.
The Novo Nordisk investment will enable Durham Tech to establish a Biotechnology Associate of Applied Science degree program for current college students. Additionally, it will provide for onsite training for biotechnology career transition programs and ensure students are trained on the type of equipment they may use within the industry.
Lastly, a portion of the funding will provide outreach and awareness for area middle and high school students.
“It makes sense to be partners with Durham Tech. We’ve been in Durham since 2019 and in Clayton for 30 years. We’re not just a business, we want to be good partners in the community and there really seemed to be an unmet need within the Durham community and people in the area don’t realize the opportunities there are in the biotech community,” said Dale Pulczinski, site lead at the company’s oral finished products facility in Durham and a professor in the bioworks concentration at DTCC.
With three manufacturing facilities across the Research Triangle Park, including a site in Durham, Novo Nordisk has maintained a well-established position within the community. Beyond providing employment, the company maintains a philosophy and culture of being a good neighbor and steward of opportunity.
Shaylah Nunn Jones, Novo Nordisk’s government and public affairs lead noted that within the boundaries of RTP, there are hundreds of life sciences companies in the region, many of them within Durham County. Nunn Jones noted there is another successful workforce development program Novo Nordisk is involved with at Johnston Community College, which is closer to the company’s locations in Clayton, N.C., and they wanted to replicate that in Durham.
Heather Smith, a recent DTCC graduate who now works at Novo Nordisk said she was shown the opportunities within the life sciences industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the outbreak, Smith worked in real estate. However, when the economy largely shut down to mitigate the spread, Smith lost her job. An unemployment agent suggested Smith look for a new opportunity in the life sciences. She was pointed to the training program at Durham Tech and realized there were significant opportunities. After completing the DTCC program, Smith was hired by Novo Nordisk, first as a manufacturing operator and now as a documentation specialist.
Smith noted that before the training program, she believed training as a scientist or engineer was required in order to have a career in the life sciences.
“There are so many opportunities in this industry that don’t require advanced degrees,” Smith said.
Currently, the community college’s training program is something of a hidden gem. Smith said few of her neighbors and friends within the community were aware of its existence. She hopes the financial support from Novo Nordisk, as well as her own success story will spur others to investigate their options.
“We want to grow the talent in the area,” Pulczinski said.
The college’s program will provide an opportunity for people looking to break into the pharmaceutical industry. Beyond DTCC students, the program provides opportunities for high school students, veterans who may be transitioning out of service, people looking to reskill and change career paths and more.
Not only will the school’s training capabilities be augmented by the new center and the donation, Novo Nordisk will offer additional support by having full- and part-time employees serve in the professor-in-residence program. Additionally, Novo Nordisk will provide apprenticeships, internships and scholarship programs, Nunn Jones said.
“This is a place for people to go and get trained. There are opportunities for people in the biotechnology industry for all education levels. It opens opportunities for employment not only with Novo Nordisk but with the other companies in the area,” Pulczinski said. “It can make a difference in people’s lives.”