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Educational programs aim to fill need for qualified workers

By Chris Fyall 331-4307 |
April 11, 2010

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To work in life sciences is to get comfortable in a highly sterile environment. It is a world of hairnets and shoe covers, of full-body gowns and intense regulatory oversight.

That is a message clearly conveyed at the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences, the 20,000-square-foot training center opened in January 2009 by Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington campus and Monroe County.
The center’s goal is to train exactly the sort of life sciences-ready work force that Bloomington’s industry leaders say is necessary.

“We know of the needs. We know of the areas,” said director John Stephens, who regularly discusses with local leaders the industry’s needs.

One message from the industry has been clear, Stephens said. They need more workers.
“It is a fast-growing field. But it is going to be a while before we meet all the corporate needs,” he said. “It is a matter of filling the pipeline.”

Students aren’t yet rushing in, but they are definitely coming.

Last year, 23 students graduated from the program at Ivy Tech. Twenty of them were immediately employed, and the other three opted to pursue four-year degrees, Stephens said.

Many of the students are like 35-year-old Andrew Brown, who plans to graduate in May. Two years ago, he was a long-time employee at Visteon, where he built electrical auto components. When the factory closed, he was suddenly an unemployed husband and father of two. Brown treated it like an opportunity.

With unemployment helping pay the way, he enrolled at Ivy Tech, and pursued an associate’s degree of applied sciences in biotechnology.

Now he’s about to graduate. He had a meeting last week with Cook Pharmica, and is hoping to land an internship, and then maybe a job.

“In the research I did, life sciences and biotech was three heads above everything else (as a career field),” he said. “In five years, it is going to change the world.”

“(Being laid off) seemed like a horribly life-changing experience,” he said. “Now it doesn’t feel so bad. It fees like it might have been a blessing in disguise.”

John Stephens, director of the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences, gives a tour of the Manufacturing Training Suite at the center. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Miranda Lindley, left, and Ying Ni Fang build a molecular model in a general chemistry class at Ivy Tech's Indiana Center for the Life Sciences. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Stewart Moon | Herald-Times

Stewart Moon | Herald-Times

Copyright: 2010