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Building and Inspiring the Life Sciences Talent and Workforce Pipeline

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Teachers

Maryland is a one of the top 3 biotech sectors in the country and within the state is a rapidly growing ecosystem. The state has 2,700 life sciences firms, 500 biotech companies, and 74 federal and it offers outstanding educational resources for aspiring professionals. It has taken a lot of work to grow Maryland’s biotech ecosystem, and we’re proud of the progress we have made. Now, we need to fill the pipeline of workers at all levels, and the state relies on teachers to help guide students into biotechnology careers.

Studies show that middle school is a prime time to help students make connections between the skills they are learning in the classroom with STEM careers. When students are introduced to these types of careers early in their education, they tend to gravitate toward the classes they need to get into the right college or program to pursue a career.

As well, high school is a good time to explain career options within biotechnology and help students identify and apply to the right program. Most teachers have heard students say they can’t pursue a STEM career because they aren’t good at math and/or science or they aren’t interested in going to college. The fact is that biotechnology careers exist at all levels for students who want to begin working right after high school to those who plan to study at the PhD level. The industry actively recruits for positions in sales, marketing, writing, lab operations, manufacturing, logistics, IT, and many others that require valuable skills such as creativity, problem solving, and collaboration. Presenting STEM as an interdisciplinary curriculum, and not just math and science, helps students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Additionally, it takes into account the need for professionals who have both hard and soft skills.

An area of STEM that has gained attention during the last few decades is that of inclusion, specifically inclusion of girls, students of color, and those from underserved communities. Each group has specific needs but introducing these children to STEM early in their education is the first step to them ultimately considering biotechnology as a career. For a variety of reasons, many children in these groups are insecure about their ability to succeed in STEM classes because of traditional social norms, lack of support at home, or because of time constraints. Encouraging their abilities and being consistent with at-school support is critical to their success.

Another obstacle for students pursuing STEM careers is their ability to pay for college. They may excel at STEM subjects, yet they feel they won’t be able to attend because of rising tuition costs. Addressing the issue and explaining that many forms of tuition assistance are available may help in allaying the anxiety that comes with paying for college. Additionally, explaining that the industry needs workers at all education levels and showcasing certificate and community college programs gives students more affordable options outside of a four-year institution. Inviting someone who works in the biotech industry to speak about what positions are available and what type of education is required for each will help students make both short- and long-term career plans.  

Maryland is well prepared to train the next generation of biotech professionals with its 57 accredited two- and four-year colleges and universities. Additionally, the state and private industry offer specialized biotech programs for students and for professionals who are looking for a career change. The good news for students is that, upon graduation, in-demand, high-paying positions are waiting throughout Maryland!

Biotech resources for teachers are available here – https://www.innovatebio.org/about

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