Due to rapid growth in the biotechnology industry, the demand for skilled biotechnicians in the Los Angeles region continues to increase. Out of the ~3,200 projected annual openings in biotechnology-related jobs, more than 2,000 require an associate degree or less. The most recent statewide data indicate a massive gap in availability of these trained biotechnicians, with an annual average production in Los Angeles county of only ~50 individuals. The largest demand is for quality control and manufacturing technicians. This project will help fill this demand by providing comprehensive training and internships in biomanufacturing, a process that uses cells (or parts of cells) to produce useful products such as proteins. The biotechnology industry is one of the sectors that has been most resilient and least impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, people from the communities served by the college, including students who are Hispanic, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. By training biomanufacturing technicians, this project will help put people back to work in more secure, well-paying jobs, and contribute to mitigating the financial impacts of COVID-19 on these individuals.
This project aims to address major regional needs for biotechnology talent by establishing a protein biomanufacturing training program. By accomplishing this goal, the project will provide a pipeline for students from high school to two-year college, and then to employment or transfer to a four-year biomanufacturing program. To create the program, three new courses will be developed, implemented, and evaluated. Complementing the coursework, the project will establish a student-centered Contract Manufacturing Organization that will provide internship opportunities for students in protein biomanufacturing. The protein (Taq polymerase) will be produced by student interns working in college laboratories, and provided at low cost to local high school and community college bioscience classrooms, as well as to national course-based undergraduate research experiences programs, including the DNA Learning Center’s DNA Barcoding experience and the Amgen Biotech Experience. By providing affordable enzymes to bioscience classrooms in less-resourced institutions, the project can help mitigate COVID-19 impacts on the institutions and support greater learning opportunities for the students they serve. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program that focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the nation’s economy.