Raising the Bar
Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) plays a dual role in serving the talent needs of the regional bioscience industry, particularly in New York’s Capital region. Located in Troy, the College educates a varied set of individuals along the postsecondary continuum, from new students to those who already have a Bachelor’s degree but have a need for further training and skills development. Its other role, particularly through its biotechnology program, is through partnerships with local companies in training their existing workers.
HVCC offers both an Associate’s and Certificate program in biotechnology which emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of modern industrial biotechnology. In addition to the core science and math courses required, the program places a strong emphasis on lab experiences and developing career-ready lab skills.
Over the last three years, the HVCC biotechnology program was able to grow through a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The focus of the grant was to further establish and grow the talent pipeline for the regional bioscience workforce by giving students hands-on experience to minimize the need for in-house industry training. HVCC, advised by a team of strategic partners, used the funding to purchase the latest industry-standard lab and analytic equipment, to train students on these equipment and in the classroom and to grow the program by offering free tuition for a 2-semester program that includes an internship. In addition to expanded lab training, a range of new courses have been developed under the grant in immunology, biological imaging, analytical chemistry, and molecular lab techniques using DNA. Each course benefits from access to the high-end lab equipment.
During the grant, which ran from 2010 through 2013, enrollment in the biotechnology program peaked at 30-40 students but has since fallen off now that tuition is no longer fully covered. This year, the program has about 10 students with continued strong regional demand for its graduates.
HVCC has had high interaction with at least one major bioscience company in the region to train their entry-level quality control specialists with a biochemical focus through a tailored curriculum specific to their needs. The partnership is designed with a practical focus for the company through two 6-week training sessions that focus on sterile techniques and operating in a GMP facility. The training is critical for these workers who generally have a 4-year degree but need industry-specific skills. In addition to this training partnership, HVCC places students in internships with several regional bioscience companies and biomedical research institutions.
Looking forward, the biotechnology program is working to implement a new initiative offering “stackable” education modules designed as 6-week programs in good manufacturing practices and good laboratory practices. Regional bioscience companies have already expressed strong interest in these potential new offerings.