In 2013, the Oregon Bioscience Association (Oregon Bio) approached the Oregon Legislature to request funds for a workforce training pilot program to address an issue being conveyed by an increasing number of businesses in the bioscience industry. The businesses, while desiring to hire Oregonians for new positions, were being pressed into conducting their recruitment efforts outside of Oregon in order to find qualified employees. The program, initially referred to as an Applied STEM program, specifically targeted dislocated workers hoping to make a career change into the bioscience or advanced manufacturing industries. Once approved, the pilot was rebranded as BioCatalyst Advanced Training and designed to recruit one hundred unemployed (or drastically under-employed) management professionals, engineers, and project managers attempting to make a career transition and provide the skilled employees required by Oregon businesses.
Oregon Bio brought to the project a proven track record, over the past six years, of developing a bioscience workforce curriculum (in coordination with major local employers), providing advanced “applied STEM training” to 2,100 Oregonians and providing the skilled employees required by Oregon businesses.
Oregon Bio is proud of the success the first BioCatalyst graduates have had in becoming employed Oregonians. With a placement rate of 72% (74 employed graduates), under the parameters laid out for evaluation, the program has dramatically out-performed its original employment placement goal.
Based on the average salary of just the 59 graduates who are now employed in a full-time job ($87,779 per year), the state’s cost of developing and deploying the Biocatalyst training program ($325,000) will be recouped after fourteen months of employment. These calculations, of course, also do not include the enormous social benefit of more employed Oregonians and the other related social costs (unemployment, preventing skill workers from relocating to other states, satisfying existing need for skilled workers, etc.) BioCatalyst helps mitigate.
Equally important are the valuable lessons we have learned in deploying a program that is first-of-its kind in the United States. Oregon Bio uncovered several new significant breakthroughs related to the curriculum, structure and organization of the program that could yield even better results in the future with refinements based on these preliminary results.