2nd Annual Biotechnology Education and Workforce Development Summit at Skyline College

South San Francisco, CA    March 11, 2016     City of South San Francisco Press Release

Summit focused on building connections between youth and future Biotech employers

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More than 100 people involved in education, government, and the biotechnology industry gathered today at Skyline College to discuss new ways to energize and excite students about pursuing a career in science or technology.

State Senator Jerry Hill, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine opened the Summit, all citing the need to provide an educated workforce. “The key is education and workforce training,” said Supervisor Pine. Assemblyman Mullin agreed, noting the future is bright but asked the crowd, “how do we make sure that biotechnology is not just for PhD students, but is a career more of our residents can pursue?” Senator Hill added, “We can’t take for granted that to be competitive, we’ve got to work hard to keep our advantage. Right now we are the best in the world. To stay there, we must invest in education and workforce development.”

South San Francisco Vice Mayor Pradeep Gupta, PhD, chairperson of the Biotechnology Education and Workforce Development Committee, set the direction of the Summit by noting that while the industry has an ever-growing need for qualified workers, “many students in and around South San Francisco currently don’t have the educational opportunities that would enable them to enter the field.” Dr. Gupta began the biotechnology workforce initiative two years ago with just a small task force, but the acute need for more students in the science field has caused his initiative to expand to include biotechnology companies and educators from around the Bay Area.

The first workforce summit was held in 2014 at Genentech in South San Francisco. As a direct result of the summit an enhanced biotechnology curriculum was introduced into the public schools in South San Francisco, with several students currently in the program speaking at this year’s summit. Each of the students noted that before being exposed to the biotechnology industry they had little or no interest in science as a career, but now were inspired to do so. South San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Shawnterra Moore spoke at the conference, praising the students’ dedication and exploring with attendees how to expand the program. At present the biotechnology program can only serve 25 students, although over 100 students applied for the program seeking an opportunity to take intensive courses training them for careers in the life sciences industry. Vice Mayor Gupta stated “I hope one day, it will be twenty five hundred people in the program, not just 25,” and pledged to work with the schools to expand the program.

Officials believe that can be the case, are excited about the momentum and say they have the right person behind this effort. “Dr. Gupta is an incredible asset to the City and we couldn’t have a better person leading the charge,” concluded Supervisor Pine.

Also speaking at the Summit were Raymond Hernandez, Dean, Skyline Community College; Lynda Gayden, Executive Director, Biotech Partners; Kristine Campbell-Reed, Genetech’s FutureLab Initiative; Professor Nick Kapp, Skyline Community College; Sara Radcliffe, CEO, California Life Sciences Association; Dr. Trina Ostrander, Bayer AG; and Dr. Wayne Liao, Director US Operations, TLC.

The Biotechnology Education and Workforce Development Committee will take the input gained at the Summit to more effectively tailor efforts bringing science and technology into the classroom. “Making science exciting and real is critical in K-12 education,” noted Vice Mayor Gupta, “and will allow our students to fully participate in the knowledge economy in the future.”

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