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Preparing Graduates for Entry-Level Positions in the Life Sciences Field

Pictured: Bioversity student Josiah Wade-Green utilizes a pipette to measure a liquid chemical during a training experiment/Ian MacLellan for Bioversity

With a keen interest in learning and a passion for hands-on activities, Josiah Wade-Green excelled in the inaugural Bioversity workforce training initiative, Biotech Career Foundations. This program, designed for Massachusetts residents aged 18 and above holding high school diplomas or GEDs, equips individuals like Wade-Green for careers in the life sciences sector. He wasted no time diving into the program.

On February 29, Wade-Green completed the program at the 4,000-square-foot Bioversity facility in Southline Boston. Shortly thereafter, the 24-year-old transitioned from his role as a security guard at Game on Fenway to assume the position of a logistics technician at Abcam, a global life science company renowned for its products utilized by scientists worldwide.

In a conversation with BioSpace, Wade-Green expressed his appreciation for Bioversity, emphasizing how the nonprofit broadened his understanding of life sciences, honed his soft skills, and illuminated the diverse pathways available in the field of biotechnology.

According to Zach Stanley, the executive director at Bioversity, the organization’s mission, established by MassBio, focuses on forging training opportunities and fostering connections with employers for underrepresented demographics and individuals traditionally marginalized in the life sciences sector. This initiative aims to swiftly propel them into lucrative positions and enduring careers—a necessity underscored by statistics from two MassBio reports.

  • A staggering 94.2% of businesses encountered challenges in securing qualified non-entry-level candidates, while 73.5% faced similar hurdles in recruiting entry-level candidates in 2022.
  • People of color, encompassing Black, Hispanic, Latinx, and Native American individuals, constitute a mere 14% of the biopharma workforce, significantly lower than the 32% representation in the Massachusetts population, as per a 2023 report.

Gina Conti, a talent acquisition business partner at Abcam, lauded Bioversity for introducing a fresh pool of talent to the industry, emphasizing the value of candidates eager to learn, grow, and make a meaningful impact in the realm of life sciences.

Pictured from left to right, top to bottom: Taylor Lopez, Aaron Onyango, Christina Jones, and Luis Toribio collaborate on a group project to ascertain the density of various solutions/Ian MacLellan for Bioversity

To educate and nurture prospective job candidates, Bioversity is conducting five Biotech Career Foundations cohorts this year, with the initial cohort drawing over 150 applicants. From this pool, Bioversity selected 18 Black or Latino students, with 16 successfully graduating.

Within four weeks post-graduation:

  • Five graduates secured full-time positions in the biotech sector.
  • Several graduates progressed to subsequent interview rounds.
  • Two graduates gained admission to Roxbury Community College, and one to MassBay Community College, all with tentative plans to commence studies in the fall.

Stanley noted the enthusiasm and dedication of the participants, highlighting their proactive approach to learning and readiness to tackle new challenges, even in areas requiring advanced mathematical or scientific knowledge.

Conti, who engaged with the first cohort, singled out Wade-Green for his confidence, articulate communication, and eagerness to learn, traits highly valued by employers.

The second cohort at Bioversity is set to graduate on May 2, with recruitment underway for the third cohort commencing on May 6.

Pictured: Professor Ronny Priefer leads Bioversity students in a laboratory-based learning activity/Ian MacLellan for Bioversity

The Biotech Career Foundations program spans eight weeks and is offered free of charge to participants, who receive a weekly stipend of $500 to offset income loss and cover expenses like childcare and transportation. Developed in collaboration with life sciences employers such as Abcam and in partnership with the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the curriculum encompasses various facets, including:

  • Understanding fundamental scientific concepts and laboratory equipment.
  • Adhering to environmental health and safety protocols in a lab environment.
  • Executing tasks related to facility maintenance, cleaning, and hazardous waste disposal.
  • Managing inventory in laboratory and manufacturing settings.

Additionally, the curriculum emphasizes modeling professional conduct, honing effective communication skills, and refining job interview techniques.

Employers are enthusiastic about hiring graduates of the program, as it equips them with essential skills for laboratory work, ensuring familiarity with lab equipment, safety protocols, and professional competencies demanded by employers, particularly for early-career roles.

Conti highlighted how Bioversity streamlines the recruitment process for entry-level positions, facilitating talent development and internal growth within companies like Abcam.

Wade-Green, now an Abcam employee, envisions a future brimming with opportunities. Tasked with assisting the shipping team in assembling assay kits and other materials for international dispatch, he sees potential growth avenues within the organization, aspiring to progress from his current role to a lab technician.

Reflecting on his journey, Wade-Green expressed gratitude to Bioversity for steering him towards a rewarding career, steering him away from mundane jobs like restaurant work or security roles, and immersing him in the dynamic world of life sciences.

He emphasized the significance of each role within the industry, underscoring the broader impact of contributing to the field of life sciences.

“Every job has its importance in its own respective industry,” he remarked. “But I feel like this helps everyone on a larger scale.”