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What Bioscience Technicians Should Know: The 2016 Core Skill Standards for Bioscience Technicians

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Across a variety of careers and industries, skill standards offer an essential set of expectations that help define what workers need to know and do to succeed. As many of us in the ATE community prepare students for their career of choice, these standards provide an effective framework for developing courses, learning best practices, and identifying industry-specific benchmarks for success.

Recently, the 2016 Core Skill Standards for Bioscience Technicians Toolkit was released, highlighting a set of core technical competencies and skills that are shared across the Bioscience Lab, Biomanufacturing, and Medical Device domains of the bioscience industry.

ATE Central sat down with report authors Jeanette Mowery, Bio-Link Leadership Team, and John Carrese, Bio-Link, to find out a bit more.

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ATE Central: The “Core Skill Standards for Bioscience Technicians” report was just released. Can you tell us a little more about the publication?

Mowery and Carrese: The publication represents an effort to disseminate the results of a DOL TAACCCT grant project to harmonize bioscience technician skill standards across three bioscience industry subsectors of Biomanufacturing, Medical Device and Laboratory Skills.  These CORE Skill Standards for Bioscience Technicians were developed to answer the question: What do all bioscience technicians need to know and be able to do in order to work in the diverse and ever-changing life science industry. The publication describes the rationale and the process for identifying these core skills as well as the process for achieving industry recognition.  It also includes suggestions and examples for how the standards can be used by educators and employers.

ATE Central: You mentioned that this project was funded by a Department of Labor (DOL)Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grant. What were the grant’s?

Mowery and Carrese: The Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc) is a consortium of 12 colleges led by Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. The consortium includes the ATE centers of Bio-Link and the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center.

The objectives of the c3bc grant include:

  • Identifying a set of Core Skill Standards that are held in common across multiple industry subsectors of Biomanufacturing, Medical Devices and Bioscience Lab Skills.
  • Building capacity for bioscience education.
  • Improving preparation for workforce training.
  • Expanding recruitment into Bioscience workforce programs.
  • Introducing portable, industry-recognized credentials.
  • Accelerating completion time in credentialing programs.
  • Building community college curricula to meet employer needs.

ATE Central: What are the components or elements of the Core Bioscience Skill Standards framework?

Mowery and Carrese: In order to make the skill standards useful to all stakeholders, the format includes the following sections: Critical Work Functions are the broadest areas of responsibility. A Key Activity is an essential task and is specific enough that workers can be assessed on their proficiency. A Performance Indicator is a guide that can be used to determine if the key activity is performed well. Underlying Knowledge includes skills and knowledge that a technician must have in order to perform the activity well. An Assessment is an exercise that can be undertaken to determine an individual’s proficiency.

ATE Central: The history of Bioscience Skill Standards Development dates back to 1994. What are you building upon with this newest set of skill standards?

Mowery and Carrese: Previous sets of bioscience skill standards are described briefly in the booklet and links to prior sets of skill standards can be found on the Bio-Link website. These prior sets of standards have provided a useful vocabulary for educators, employers and students. In recent years, due to the growth and maturation of the bioscience industry, workforce education programs have multiplied to meet industry’s need for a technical workforce. The rapid expansion of the industry and the resulting variety of job descriptions prompted a need to identify Core skills that are held in common across all entry level bioscience technician jobs, in all subsectors of the industry, in order to facilitate development of credentials and career pathways for workforce preparation.

ATE Central: Does the publication actually contain the complete skill standards?

Mowery and Carrese: The publication contains the complete list of the Core Skill Standards for Bioscience Technicians.  It also contains references to previous sets of bioscience skill standards.

ATE Central: Can you tell us more about the assessment component?

Mowery and Carrese: Although skill standards establish which skills are necessary and provide useful information for stakeholders, skill standards alone do not tell the individual whether they have succeeded in meeting the standard.  Although there are many types of assessment, it is through the design of “authentic,” performance-based assessments that the full potential of these standards can be realized.  Authentic assessments are workplace based and are challenging to develop and implement in an instructional setting, but they provide the most valuable feedback to students and are critical to adequate workforce preparation.  We are actively soliciting help from other stakeholders to identify and/or develop authentic assessments.  To facilitate these efforts, an assessment library is housed at this site

ATE Central: Are there other resources highlighted in the publication that may be of interest to our readers?  

Mowery and Carrese: On the teaching resource page of the publication, there are individual sections devoted to the three areas of Bioscience Laboratory Skills, Biomanufacturing Skills and Medical Device Skills.  Although this effort focused on identifying skills that are held in common across these three industry subsectors, each of these areas has a separate list of skill standards that includes other skills that are specific for their area.

ATE Central: What other resources would you recommend for bioscience educators?

Mowery and Carrese: The Bio-Link national center and NBC2 (Biomanufacturing) each have extensive sections of their websites devoted to curriculum and instructional materials.  The Center for the Biotechnology Workforce in North Carolina also includes links to many excellent teaching resources.  In addition, Bio-Link has developed a website devoted to bioscience career exploration.

Curriculum and instructional materials that were developed by the c3bc grant project can be found here.

ATE Central: I’m sure our readers are excited to explore the booklet. Where can someone who is interested find the publication?

Mowery and Carrese: The booklet can be found along with other instructional materials on the  at the following URLs:

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