Article - Office of College Advancement

Programs open up new careers

By Tim Simmers - Business Writer.

Sunday, March 11, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

JOB EXPERTS say the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors are the fastest growing industries in the Bay Area.

If you don't believe it, check the numbers at Genentech, the pioneering biotech firm in South San Francisco, which has been so successful that industry companies continue to "cluster" around it as if it were the mother company.

Genentech employed 10,460 people at the end of 2006 and expects to see 11 percent job growth this year. That means the firm plans to hire 1,200 new workers.

"We're very lucky to have biotech in our backyard," said Michael Quinnine, business services manager of the Oakland Private Industry Council (oaklandpic.org), a one-stop career center that frequently helps steer qualified job seekers toward Genentech and other biotech companies. "It's not only about scientists, either. There's lots of biomanufacturing jobs."

Community colleges such as Skyline College in San Bruno and Ohlone College in Fremont offer programs that train people for biomanufacturing jobs. The colleges partner with companies such as Genentech and Cell Genesys, also in South San Francisco, and Novartis in Emeryville to help shape the training program.

The training programs are free and are available to workers who have been displaced in other careers. High demand for biomanufacturing positions fuels the programs, which receive federal funding from the Workforce Investment Act.

The training typically lasts three or four months. Graduates are placed in jobs that pay $16 to $18 per hour to start. Graduates aren't guaranteed jobs upon completion of the programs, but students often receive offers before they graduate, program officials said.

"The program really helped me get a leg up," said Jessica Miller, who took a 15-week, four-day-a-week program at Skyline College, then landed a job at Bayer HealthCare/Pharmaceuticals in Berkeley. "I love it," she says.

She said she had two job offers before she graduated.

Bayer is also addressing its emerging needs for trained workers with a program that targets "at risk" high school students, said Sreejit Mohan, specialist in public policy and communications at Bayer. Bayer targets students from Berkeley High School and Life Academy High School in Oakland. The schools help Bayer identify African-American, Latino and Asian students who are not on track for higher education and have economic or social challenges, Mohan said.

"It's very competitive to find life science professionals," Mohan said. "In general, there's not enough people coming into the field. We need to make sure there's a good pipeline of talent."

The high school students start as interns and eventually take a variety of jobs, usually lab technicians, at Bayer, Mohan said.

Bayer also designs some biotech curriculum at Laney College in Oakland and works closely with Skyline College to help keep the pipeline of talent flowing.

The program also can help students get into other aspects of biotech, ranging from research assistants and clinical workers to administrative workers and human resources employees, Mohan said.

Bayer has offered the high school intern program for 14 years and has been a partner in the community college program for 11 years. The firm has hired about 50 program graduates, and many have become managers and moved on to other biotech companies.

"These programs make a huge difference," Mohan said.

For information on community college programs, visit skylinecollege.edu/workforce/bio-manu.html or call (650) 802-3349. Visit biotechpartners.org or call (510) 705-7324 for information on the high school programs.

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Related Links at Ohlone College

  • Bio-Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Certificate Program [link deleted]
  • Biotechnology