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City of Boston, Mayor’s Office

February 15, 2024

Mayor Michelle Wu today announced the recipients of $4.7 million in funding to train and place Boston residents into life sciences careers, the latest stage of the City’s Life Sciences Workforce Initiative. Mayor Wu was joined by Dr. Reshma Kewalramani, M.D., CEO and President of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and other life sciences industry leaders and training partners.

“Boston is the home for big ideas that can change the world. As Mayor, my goal is to help ensure that Boston remains the best place in the world to start and grow a life sciences company—to create life-saving innovations and great jobs for our residents,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Through our Life Sciences Workforce Initiative, we’re partnering with industry, training providers, and higher education to connect employers with the talented workforce that lives in our neighborhoods.”

The initiative aims to leverage Greater Boston’s position as the global leader in life sciences to develop more inclusive training and career pathways for Boston residents, particularly workers of color and those without four-year degrees, with a goal of hiring 1,000 Boston residents into the sector by the end of 2025. Mayor Wu announced the launch of a new collaboration between the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio), the state’s life sciences trade association, and the Boston-based national job training organization YearUp, to further develop inclusive hiring and talent acquisition among Greater Boston companies, and outlined grant funding that will collectively bring 410 Boston residents into the industry.

Mayor Wu and Dr. Kewalramani were joined at the press conference by MassBio President and CEO Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, Gerald Chertavian, Founder and Senior Advisor of Year Up, Jeanne LeClair, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College, and Gretchen Cook-Anderson, Executive Director of LabCentral Ignite, and Josiah Wade-Green, a student in Bioversity and the Mass College of Pharmaceutical Health Sciences’ first Biotech Career Foundations 8-week certificate training program. The grants are funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Neighborhood Jobs Trust (NJT), and the City of Boston’s FY24 operating budget.

“We’re excited to host Mayor Wu and workforce training partners at Vertex to connect the life sciences industry to the hotbed of talent we have in Boston,” said Reshma Kewalramani, M.D., CEO and President at Vertex. “The Life Sciences Workforce Initiative reflects our shared commitment to cultivate local talent and ensure the City’s growing life sciences industry will continue to thrive.”

As someone born and raised in Boston, it’s thrilling to see Mayor Wu investing significant resources to make sure people like me have the opportunity to pursue professional careers in the life sciences,” said Josiah Wade-Green, a student with Bioversity and Mass College of Pharmaceutical Health Sciences (MCPHS). “Even though I only have a high school degree, Bioversity has created a career pathway for me and I can’t wait to start the next chapter in my life.” 

The seven awardees of training grants are Bioversity and MCPHS, Bunker Hill Community College and Mass General Brigham, Just-A-Start, Quincy College and Bioprocessing Group, Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, and Roxbury Community College and the NuSq Life Sciences Training Center, and Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd).

Each awardee applied for funds to secure internship and hiring commitments from life sciences companies, train for specific in-demand industry positions, and support residents without four-year degrees who are underrepresented in the industry today. 

Bunker Hill Community College is excited to build on our long experience collaborating with Mass General Brigham and Project HOPE to expand the workforce pipeline into fields connecting life sciences and healthcare,” said Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College. “This grant will give Boston residents the opportunity to train as part of BHCC’s Medical Laboratory Science Pathway for entry-level jobs in high-demand fields, offering family-sustaining wages and career growth. Jobs in areas like phlebotomy, medical laboratory assistant, and technician roles are the foundation of our region’s life sciences economy, and a skilled, inclusive workforce is critical to equity and shared prosperity.”

This funding round also establishes a workforce intermediary, developed through a joint application by Year Up and MassBio, which will be designing and launching an inclusive network of employers, training and education organizations, community organizations, and influential Boston stakeholders. The intermediary will improve employment outcomes for underrepresented talent in the life sciences sector in Greater Boston by simplifying and coordinating the process for life sciences talent and employers to reach each other.

“Life sciences is an important, growing sector in Boston and in Massachusetts, and we want to ensure individuals currently underrepresented in the industry are empowered to be successful in these careers,” said Ellen McClain, Year Up CEO and President. “With this investment from the City of Boston, Year Up is excited to partner with MassBio, training and education organizations, and life sciences companies to build more on-ramps into this field for Boston residents.”

“There remains a strong demand for workers in the life sciences at all levels in the Boston area, and employers have committed to bringing new and diverse individuals into their workforces,” said Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, MassBio CEO and President. “Launching Bioversity in Dorchester with the support of the City of Boston, MCPHS, and so many others has created a new pathway for residents to be trained to enter a life sciences career without anything more than a high school diploma. Now, our new partnership with YearUp will enable unprecedented collaboration across the ecosystem to facilitate the hiring of diverse talent.”

“There is an immense need for entry- and mid-level workers in life science careers that is only growing as innovation continues to accelerate,” said Jeanne LeClair, Director of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. “The City of Boston’s initiative fits in perfectly with efforts the state is also making to recruit new faces to these highly rewarding and vitally necessary careers, via our Pathmaker program and the Commonwealth’s MassTalent initiative.”

This funding round follows an announcement last year that the City was funding The American City Coalition (TACC), LabCentral Ignite, and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) to increase community awareness of the life sciences industry and its career opportunities in Boston neighborhoods. The awareness efforts will engage 1,600 individuals in intensive career awareness programming and reach thousands more through a robust media and community engagement strategy, all unlocking the potential for many more job placement opportunities for residents.

“At LabCentral Ignite, we’re honored to be part of this amazing collective action led by Mayor Wu’s administration to prepare and employ new generations of Bostonians from communities historically disconnected from the life sciences and the groundbreaking health innovations, career advancement, and wealth creation the field enables,” said Gretchen Cook Anderson, Executive Director of LabCentral Ignite. “We’re moving fast and intentionally, together, to demystify the industry, share the faces and stories of people in the industry who reflect our Black, Brown and other underrepresented communities, and put people on the right educational and training pathways to join this life-saving field. This is an historic era for inclusive focus on biotech workforce development that also stands to, in turn, advance health equity.

The City’s Life Sciences Workforce Initiative was developed with support from the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which advances research and develops new curriculum and teaching tools to help city leaders solve real-world problems.