I've been asked many times how I started the ACC Biotechnology Program so I thought I would share this information and some ideas concerning "badging trends", combining "economic development with education" and trends in "authentic education experiences" that use approaches such as the supply chain and undergraduate research to educate students in biotech programs. The first blog will cover starting the program and how the program is designed and updated, the second blog with cover ideas on badging; the third blog will cover combining economic development with education, and the last blog will focus on pedagogical approaches such as the "supply chain" and undergraduate research. I hope this will generate interest in sharing information --both at the website and Facebook. To this end, I will also post the blog at the InnovATEBIO website and Facebook pages. Looking forward to feedback on the postings!
STARTING THE AUSTIN COMMUNITY COLLEGE (ACC) PROGRAM
The ACC Biotechnology Program was started in 1999 based on best practices collected from around the nation through Bio-Link and importantly, based on what the state of Texas and Austin Community College (ACC) require to start a workforce program. It took a year to complete the approval process. These requirements were:
We had to have a local industry that needed technicians and would consider hiring students from ACC,
We had to establish an industry advisory board that would meet once a year to advise the program,
Our degree program needed to be designed so that it would meet the needs of industry, and
We had to show that students were interested in biotech careers.
SPACE and EQUIPMENT for the program were difficult to find. Through an innovative arrangement with the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) program (thank you MLT and the Health Sciences at ACC!), we were able to share space until the biotech program finally found a home at two campuses. We began with a night program, based on industry's recommendation, at one campus, and then expanded to a day program at a second campus after a bond package was funded (thank you ACC for supporting the program with space and excellent equipment!). We have been able to keep our equipment updated with Perkins Funding, grants, and ACC's equipment replacement plan. An unexpected benefit from sharing space with the MLT program was all the knowledge we were learned from the program and Health Sciences in general. Health Science programs are great models for workforce programs.
CURRICULUM development was and is accomplished through several mechanisms. First and foremost, Texas utilizes a process where industry-validated skill standards are adopted and used to inform workforce programs about the skills they should be teaching. Texas adopted the Washington Bioscience Skill Standards and updated them after they were updated in Washington. These skill standards provide a timeless template for programs. And in fact, they provide a template for the development of badges --but more on this in the next blog. In Texas, all of the Biotechnology Programs have adopted the skill standards and divided them up among core courses. This means that a student "product" graduating from ACC's Biotech Program should have similar performance skills, technical knowledge, and employability skills as a student who graduates from a biotech programs at Lone Star College or Del Mar College.
These skill standards are kept up to date by an industry validation process conducted by the state and the programs. The ACC industry advisory board meets once a year to provide input on emerging trends and their changing workforce needs. Since the ACC curriculum is modularized, the modules can be changed out when the needs of local industry change. Like many other programs, the first year courses cover basic laboratory techniques in a regulated environment, basic biology knowledge with a focus on proteins, how to set up assays that are properly controlled, and basic biomanufacturing (Bench to Market) knowledge. The second year courses cover more focused topics ranging from cell culture, more advanced topics in biomanufacturing, instrumentation, bioinformatics, and molecular techniques. The modules in the second year courses are subject to change. Whether the student leaves the program with a FAST TRACK one year- entry level certificate or a 2 year AAS or an Advanced Technical Certificate --the last course is always an internship. Our local industry has learned that offering internships to ACC Biotech students is a great way to check out a student's abilities before committing to a permanent position. As a result, the placement in internships is often 100%.
INTERNSHIPS and PLACEMENT OF STUDENTS are accomplished by working with industry, the internship office at ACC, and the internship instructor. In order to do an internship, students must complete their resume, participate in a mock interview, and create and present a scientific poster. Students begin working on their resume during the first course of the ACC program and update them after every semester. Their resume must be complete before they can be placed in an internship. The mock job interviews help ensure that students are prepared and ready to show their best side when they go to industry interviews for an internship or a job. After students have been in internships, they share their experience through a poster presentation. Poster presentations are a wonderful celebration of students' accomplishments. Students from both the ACC program and the high school dual-credit programs come together and share what they did on their internship with the biotech community, family and friends.
PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALUMNI TO GIVE BACK AND LEARN MORE are the next steps for students that graduate from the program. Alumni can come back and learn new techniques, help recruit students, help develop curriculum, and develop a network through the nation by utilizing ACC, InnovATEBIO, and LinkedIN resources. The ACC Biotech Program supports career development of its graduates long after they graduate from the program--along with the economic development of local companies-- but that is another story! Stay tuned for more info. AND remember, it is not what you know your students can and cannot do--it is WHAT your students know they can do and cannot do --and how to gain skills and knowledge!