Case Study - Bay Biotech Workforce Collaborative

A Bio-Tech Sector Partnership Offers Lessons for Responding in a Down Economy

In 2001, the area just south of San Francisco suffered thousands of layoffs in the air transportation industry, partly in the wake of 9-11 attacks. Skyline College, the San Mateo Workforce Investment Board and the San Mateo County Central Labor Council took action by partnering to maximize the use of existing government programs, including WIA, the Employment Training Panel, economic development grants, and U.S. DOL grants. Their collaboration paid off with the successful award of a $2 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to retrain dislocated workers to qualify for jobs in the bio-tech sector, specifically Genentech, Inc., the second largest bio-manufacturing firm in the world.

Since 2002, the San Mateo WIB, Skyline College and Ohlone college have designed and implemented an intensive bio-manufacturing certificate program that prepares students for high-skilled jobs at Genentech, Inc. and other bio-tech companies. It offers over 200 hours of instruction delivered in a short, chunked 3 month course, followed by 12 weeks of on-the-job training subsidized by Genentech and the San Mateo WIB. The program is highly successful, graduating 90% of its students and placing 80%. The program is designed for busy adults who need training that is relevant to available jobs in their region and that can be completed in a short amount of time. Students are prepared for entry- and mid-level jobs in Bio-technology and Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, including Bio-processing technicians, Labeling and Packaging Operators, Instrument and Media Prep Technicians, and others. Starting salaries range from $30K to $40K per year. The program was awarded the national Recognition of Excellence Award by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in 2005.

In 2006, the partnership was awarded an additional $700,000 from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, recognizing a need to expand support to the growing bio-technology industry cluster. The area is home to over 80 biotech firms, making the area the highest concentration of biotechnology firms in the world. The partnership has expanded to include Laney, Contra Costa and Solano Colleges in the Bay area.

Today the Bay Biotech Workforce Collaborative is a model sector partnership, collaborating with Bay Area Bio-manufacturing firms to create a coordinated approach to meeting their workforce needs. This on-going work requires:

  • Working with education and workforce partners to create regional career ladder programs that are articulated, approved and supported by industry;
  • Providing training to faculty to deliver accurate and high-quality courses to students; and
  • Coordinating with Skyline’s new Gateway program that bridges adult basic education with bio-manufacturing programs for young adults aging out of foster care.

Compiled by CSW for the California Edge Campaign, 2009

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