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$4.95 M Grant Will Train Vets, Others for Biotech Careers

The stimulus grant will help bridge education to employment in San Diego’s life sciences industry.
A researcher in the SDSU Bioscience Center prepares a sample.
A researcher in the SDSU Bioscience Center prepares a sample.

San Diego State University, BIOCOM, San Diego Workforce Partnership and the Southern California Biotechnology Center at San Diego Miramar College received a three-year, $4.95 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor aimed at assisting the economic growth of the San Diego region’s life sciences industry.

The Biotechnology Readiness, Immersion, Certification and Degrees for Gainful Employment (BRIDGE) project will provide education, training and placement services to more than 1,000 veterans, incumbent workers and dislocated and unemployed workers within the San Diego region.

Bridging training to employment

The BRIDGE project is a partnership linking training and higher education with employment opportunities that address the regional and state-wide workforce needs of the life sciences industry. The project will focus on the critical need for clinical laboratory scientists, medical laboratory technicians, medical physicists and professional scientists.

SDSU and Miramar College will provide certificate, degree and Professional Science Master’s (PSM) programs. The BIOCOM Institute’s Life Science Immersion Program will provide training needed for successful biotechnology careers and the BioCollaborative, created in cooperation with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will provide an online resource to facilitate seamless transition from higher education to careers in the life sciences industry.

All of these courses are part of a pipeline that can be used to educate, recruit, train and place workers of all levels, from high school students to people with graduate degrees and military veterans.

ARRA funding

The grant is part of more than $225 million in federal stimulus funding awarded by the Department of Labor to create jobs in health care and high-growth industries under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. There were 55 grants awarded in this round of funding. The BRIDGE Project is one of four biotechnology programs to receive funding.

“These are jobs that will offer good wages and benefits far into the future,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

As feedback from major biotechnology employers recognizes that many veterans may be optimal candidates for this job sector, the California Department of Veterans Affairs and military education offices will work with the BRIDGE Project to place a special focus on connecting veterans with employment opportunities in biotechnology and the life sciences.

“We are very pleased to be able to reach out to veterans, the unemployed and other job seekers in the San Diego region and enable these individuals and San Diego’s life sciences industry to benefit significantly from our nation’s Economic Stimulus investment in higher education,” said SDSU President Stephen L. Weber.

Longtime partnership

“SDSU and BIOCOM have a long history of partnership, beginning with the establishment of a master’s degree in regulatory affairs more than 10 years ago,” said BIOCOM President and CEO Joe Panetta.

“This grant provides an opportunity to continue to build the homegrown workforce that we need in Southern California, while helping veterans and displaced workers move into skilled, high paying jobs that help this region continue as a hub of innovation that saves lives,” Panetta said.

Fifteen industry members wrote letters of support for this grant application. As partners, these companies are committed to providing internships, on-the-job training, apprenticeships and employment.

“A partnership between industry and academia is essential for the proper training of the current workforce, and building the future workforce, in order for Southern California to maintain its global prominence as a life sciences hub,” said Pete Leddy, senior vice president of human resources at Life Technologies in Carlsbad.

“The initiatives in the BRIDGE Program will enable industry partners to provide opportunities for some of the best and brightest minds interested in such cutting-edge life science fields such as bioinformatics,” Leddy, an industry advisor to the CSU Professional Masters Program, said.

The program will be administered jointly through the San Diego State University College of Sciences and College of Extended Studies.  For further information, contact COS Dean Stanley Maloy, BRIDGE academic director at 619-594-7723 or COES Dean Joe Shapiro, BRIDGE administrative director at 619-594-5822.

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