The establishment of this Regional Center for biotechnology technicians complements the activities of the Bio-Link Next Generation National Advanced Technological Education Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences. The common mission of the two centers is to "(1) increase the number and diversity of well-trained technicians in the workforce; (2) meet the ever-growing needs of a continually evolving and diversifying industry for appropriately trained technicians; and (3) institutionalize community college education practices that make high-quality education and training in the concepts, tools, skills processes, regulatory structure, and ethics of biotechnology available to all students." This regional center will expand on Bio-Link's distributed leadership network model to build replicable state Bio-Link networks. As a regional center, its activities will broaden the impact of the national center, while at the same time focus on the biotechnology workforce needs of Texas and Kentucky, two states that host a growing biotechnology industry and would benefit from establishing a Bio-Link network. The Texas and Kentucky leadership teams are located in areas of highest industry growth.
The goals of the project include: 1) Establish a sustainable, replicable Biotechnology Community College Distributed Leadership Network in each state to establish collaboration across educational and industry systems; 2) Scale-up the Biotechnology High School/College Mentor Network to support high school teachers to implement industry appropriate life science courses; 3) Develop new student recruitment pipelines into the industry that include using undergraduate research as a hook in feeder courses and programs to attract and retain students in life science careers; 4) Implement an entry-level certificate in high schools and community colleges to facilitate entry into bio-technician jobs in industry; 5) Establish Contract Service Organizations (CSO) in community colleges pairing industry projects with student internships and faculty externships to benefit companies, students, and faculty; and 6) Establish statewide articulation and reversed articulation agreements among educational partners to facilitate academic transferability and increase degree completion. By fulfilling these goals, a collaborative network at several levels and in two separate states, Texas and Kentucky, will be established to meet the workforce needs of an interdisciplinary, evolving biotechnology industry. Biotechnology educational partners will share resources such as curriculum, equipment, best practices in teaching, utilize state and local resources to sustain them in mentoring secondary and postsecondary faculty, recruit and mentor students, and develop stronger relationships between two year and four year institutions so that students can transfer between the institutions to continue their studies. Educational partners will build on the strengths of their individual programs and the needs of area industry, and will work together to identify emerging technician trends on topics such as regulatory affairs, stem cell maintenance, biotechnology-related renewable energy technology, and biopharming. The Texas and Kentucky biotechnology industries will become more competitive in a global market and a sustainable, replicable model for establishing Bio-link state networks will be developed. The Center will establish a self-sustaining biotechnology workforce educational network across Texas, and the start of a similar system in Kentucky. Taking advantage of established state, local, and institutional infrastructures, the networks are to be built based on best practices developed and implemented through the Bio-Link Network.
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