Oregon Bio exceeds projected placements in $325,000 BioCatalyst Workforce training program

The state’s $325,000 contribution to the Oregon Bioscience Association places 72 percent of program graduates with annual salaries averaging $87,780.

(Portland, Ore.) —Turning down an out-of-state employment offer, and making more than double Oregon’s average wage, the new BioCatalyst graduates have this and more in common. Far exceeding industry standards and program expectations, Oregon Bioscience Association’s BioCatalyst program in 2015 placed 74 of 103 graduates into employment with annualized salaries exceeding both the state average wage ($43,685) and the biotech and life sciences industry’s average salary ($62,538).

Emily Ediger, Jim Abbate, Robert Copenhaver and Robert Wilmington each graduated and landed placements at Genentech, local start ups and Cambia Health Solutions. “The training allowed me to change my career from a software engineer to quality engineer in the biological drug field,” said 56-year-old Lake Oswego resident and new employee at Genentech, Jim Abbate. Jim accepted the position of Quality Engineer 2 last April.

The initial goal was placement of 25 percent of graduates. The program’s overall objective was two-fold: One, provide biotech, advanced manufacturing and clean tech employers within the industry with the specific gap training and proficient talent they needed, and two, create a renewable and sustainable program that generates a net positive return on investment (for example, in state payroll taxes), while also removing people from the unemployment rolls.

“When the BioCatalyst launched, it was initially referred to as Applied STEM, to specifically target dislocated workers hoping to make a career change in the bioscience or advanced manufacturing industries,” said Dennis McNannay, executive director of the Oregon Bioscience Association.

“The BioCatalyst program, under the Oregon Bioscience Association’s tutelage, leveraged private industry know-how by providing real-time feedback on curriculum design, candidate recruitment, and graduate placement opportunities,” said Karen Wilde Goddin, Assistant Director of Economic Strategies and Policy, in the Oregon Business Development Department. “The program led to 74 graduates gaining full-time employment after completing the course, with average salaries of more than $87,000.”

Adds McNannay, “The BioCatalyst program’s deployment and outstanding placement ratio also conclusively demonstrated the importance of direct industry engagement.”

With the 2015 state legislative allocation of $250,000 and Business Oregon’s additional support of $75,000, “The community of employers and talented job seekers created by BioCatalyst gave me optimism that the biotech industry is growing in Oregon and influenced my decision to turn down an out-of-state opportunity to stay here and help local startups,” said Robert Copenhaver, 41 of Portland, and new employee at two biotech startups, DesignMedix and UbiVac.

Oregon Bio designed and offered bioscience-specific professional training to under/unemployed Oregonians hoping to educate themselves with the specific skills required in the bioscience industry. The objective of the resulting BioCatalyst program was to prepare qualified, mid-career candidates to earn sector-specific bioscience industry certificates to facilitate their employment transition. The courses were offered at no cost to qualified candidates accepted into the program. The original news release from April, 2015 is here.

Program graduate Emily Ediger, 29 [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][photo available] of Portland, landed a job as a Quality Assurance Specialist at Genentech in Hillsboro and testified on Wednesday, Feb. 10 before the Oregon House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development. She shared, “I lost my job at a technology startup when half of the company was laid off. I had a degree in biology and a background in research, but I felt discouraged by what I was qualified to do in industry. I heard about the BioCatalyst program, and I liked that it focused on biotech. The classes and training were excellent, and they helped me to develop a quality mindset, and tools that would serve me well in FDA-regulated environments.”

Ediger adds, “I didn’t know anything about these systems before the program. But the support didn’t stop there. Oregon Bio introduced me to companies that could put my skills and training to good use. Through our networking events, I got to meet several folks at Genentech and was hired on in Quality Assurance. Now I have a great career and open possibilities. I really credit my success to Oregon Bio. I would not have had the conversations and the opportunities that I now have without them. I am so grateful to have been a part of the BioCatalyst program and now a part of Genentech.”

Robert Wilmington, 50 of Vancouver, Wash., among the first of the program’s graduates, was placed at Cambia Health Solutions as a Product Marketing Manager. In his overview of the program, he said, “This program provides key information as to what it means to work in a highly regulated industry

and teaches Six Sigma, quality controls, practical statistics, mode and effect analysis, and job search tools. It also brings skills in Lean Manufacturing and many other abilities that will benefit employers.”

Both McNannay and Julie Black, director of Member Service and Business Development for the Oregon Bioscience Association, noted this is an industry-driven response to a growing marketplace need. As the initial need and success of the program was apparent, four additional tracks were included in the BioCatalyst program: Manufacturing, Medical Software, Circuit Board Foundations and Pharma Foundations.

Said Black, “In the beginning our focus was primarily on the class content, but we wanted to provide additional resources to help our students with the interview process. We had overwhelming support from our member companies and we were able to add valuable workshops and networking opportunities that became equally as important as our class time.”

Black noted that BioCatalyst workshops focused on teaching students how write and deliver a resume that would stand out, and how to research a company culture, because the goal was “not to just find a job, but to find the right job and keep our graduates employed.” She added industry sent representatives from their human resource departments to help with mock interviews and provided a presentation on the ‘Do’s and Don’ts in an Interview.’ Additional skill training was offered such as ‘Impromptu Presenting’ for interviews, while providing valuable company tours. “We provided every graduate with multiple networking opportunities at our membership events and had a team available to help introduce them personally to company representatives that could help guide them in their search for work. It is just so exciting how successful this program was.”

About Oregon Bioscience Association

The Oregon Bioscience Association advocates for its members and the industry to create opportunity through advocacy, cultivation and education. Oregon Bio promotes the growth and quality of the bioscience industry in Oregon and continually seeks ways to support sustainability and growth in the life science, bioscience, biotechnology and device manufacturing industries and to create acceleration initiatives so members can achieve their full scientific, economic and social potential. Oregon Bio, a nonprofit membership association, is the Oregon affiliate of BIO, Biotechnology Industry Organization.

BIO found in 2014 Oregon’s jobs in biotech grew faster than most other U.S. markets. The association’s most current economic impact study showed that Oregon has 802 bioscience establishments and 13 life science research institutions and that Oregon is emerging in several bioscience areas with job growth in four of the five major subsectors from 2007 to 2012. BIO also found the state’s research, testing, and medical labs subsector has grown particularly fast in recent years, increasing employment by 33 percent. Oregon’s research universities are especially focused in the biosciences relative to other fields with their $456 million in bioscience academic R&D in 2012 accounting for 67 percent of all academic research. NIH awarded Oregon nearly $304 million in 2014, with 673 grants awarded to 42 firms. Additionally, the National Cancer Institute gave 62 awards, totaling more than $39 million; 43 SBIR and STTR awards totaled $18.8 million; the Department of Defense granted almost $3 million; and the National Science Foundation awarded $60.3 million in grants. More about the Oregon Bioscience Association can be found at www.oregonbio.org.


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