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By Megan Schulz, Director of Communications and Events, MassBioEd

Our 20th Anniversary Comes To An End

Through another challenging yet hopeful year of change and transition, MassBioEd was proud to celebrate its 20th anniversary and walk you through milestones that highlight the evolution of our programs through the eyes of founders, teachers and volunteers, and partners.

20 years ago, MassBioEd was founded by the MassBio Council to build high quality science education programs as a foundation to creating a talented workforce in the Massachusetts. Over the last 15 years, life sciences industry jobs grew by 94% in Massachusetts as the landscape shifted to accommodate new discoveries, technologies and innovations. MassBioEd quickly evolved to keep up with the rapid changes of the industry to ensure training programs develop the talent to fulfill high demand jobs.

MATCH Education Students, ACCESS Program Fall 2021

This past year, our BioTeach team continued serving teachers and students in another extraordinary year for education, deepening its impact in underserved school districts through our ACCESS Program. New school districts were brought on and our team extended our reach to engage more students in authentic lab and career exploration experiences as schools returned to in-person learning. We continued to focus on our goal of helping ALL students see themselves in science careers.

“MassBioEd’s programs are designed to provide value to the industry,” Sunny Schwartz, CEO of MassBioEd says. “Our BioTeach team trains teachers in leading authentic biotech labs with students, educating the workforce of tomorrow about science, life sciences, and life sciences careers, enabling these middle and high school students to go to college and major in fields that drive them to the life sciences industry.”

2021 also brought a heightened awareness of the critical need to integrate diversity and inclusion into our industry. We launched a one-of-a-kind Life Sciences Apprenticeship Program in Massachusetts, providing a pathway to entry for people who have not had access to life sciences careers traditionally, and helping companies fulfill persistent vacancies.

“Our biggest opportunity for growth right now is to expand our workforce development programs and increase our impact helping people gain access to life sciences jobs,” says Sunny. “Our first foray into that is our Life Sciences Apprenticeship Program, which was designed to diversify the industry and is purposefully recruiting diverse populations. Thus far, we have been successful with our first two classes being two thirds’ women and over 60% People of Color.”

The Apprenticeship Program offers two career tracks: Biomanufacturing Technician and Clinical Trial Associate with more planned in future years. Pamella DaSilva, one of the first Clinical Trial Associate Apprentices shared “Through the MassBioEd Apprenticeship Program, I’ve learned that if I am excited about a position, I will be dedicated to learning and appreciating every part of the learning experience and want to dig deeper and learn more to be better in my role.”

Baker-Polito Administration National Apprenticeship Week Press Conference at Arranta Bio in Watertown. Pamela Tusiime (right); Lt. Governor Polito (left), Governor Baker (middle)

U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh gave remarks at our Apprenticeship Launch Community Event, and Governor Baker held a press conference announcing the expansion of state funding for apprenticeship programs during National Apprenticeship Week. You can catch up on both events and watch them here:

“Biotechnology is one of Massachusetts’ signature industries and one of our greatest gifts to the world. I saw the impacts every day when I was Mayor of Boston. It’s an engine of economy growth and it’s demonstration of our leadership and our values on the world stage. And today, as we find our way out of the COVID pandemic, this industry’s value has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. Biotech and life science have a critical role to play in bringing equity into our workforce. We need to draw on all our talent and cultural perspectives and we need pathways into these great careers for local students, especially women and People of Color who face systemic barriers to careers in science,” says Secretary Walsh. “That’s why I’m so excited about MassBioEd’s new program with wrap around support and mentorship, strong industry partnerships and guaranteed jobs and career opportunities. These are the kinds of high-quality apprenticeships that get the results.”

Governor Baker also spoke at our 20th Anniversary Celebration, where we honored our 2021 Champions for Biotechnology Education for their commitment to advancing life sciences education. “This industry really is special, and the role it plays, not just here in the Commonwealth, but around the country and around the globe, is special. And it’s going to boom, there is no doubt about that,” says Governor Baker. “The muscularity of this industry, the capability of this industry, as the cost of discovery falls, and there are still thousands of diseases out there to be dealt with, the capacity of the industry to do things is only going to get more so, and I do believe it’s going to create a zillion jobs and it’s going to be incredibly important for us to work with folks like MassBioEd and others to find some way to make sure people have the skills that they need to benefit from that.”

Looking Ahead To The Next 20 Years

As we look to the next 20 years, we are excited about the ways we can have even greater impact. As our Board Chair, Chris Murphy, Vice President and General Manager of Viral Vector Services at Thermo Fisher Scientific, reflected about the future, “The impact biotechnology has had on people over the last 20+ years is extraordinary. We have to ask how we can fuel the continued growth of this industry in Massachusetts and across the region. We must expand the workforce to continue to lead on innovation and technology. In doing so, we can impact underserved communities and regions. In partnership with school, colleges, and companies, we can help build the workforce pipeline and expand BioTeach, ACCESS, and apprenticeship programs. People will learn and grow in this remarkable industry and Massachusetts will continue to play a lead role in developing and manufacturing new medicines for patients in need.”

In addition to providing more intensive training and expanding our student reach through our ACCESS Program, we will be exponentially increasing the number of apprentices and introducing new career initiatives through the expansion of our Apprenticeship Program. We are grateful to be able to learn from our work as we grow a talented team cultivating an ecosystem of inspiring teachers, partners, and collaborators. If there is anything the last 20 years has shown us, it is that we can continue to lead education and workforce development in the life sciences industry in a meaningful way. There is much more to do, and we look forward to taking on the challenges our community faces in growing this critical industry over the next 20 years to ensure we have the talent and science to meet the medical needs of people and environmental needs of our world.