GBC’s Fry: Wanted: More training for entry-level jobs in bioscience

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

When we think of the jobs in the bioscience industry, we tend to think in terms of those requiring college degrees ranging from bachelor’s to multiple graduate degrees. That’s because the industry is driven by high-level academic and scientific skills.

So, what percentage of jobs in Maryland’s growing bioscience sector is open to people with only a high school diploma? Would you believe 38 percent? That’s according to a new report by the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s currently a gap between the number of entry-level bioscience jobs projected for Maryland and the training programs that can produce workers for them.

Lack of available workers at all levels is a constraint for our state’s bioscience industry in general. But the need for training entry-level workers is particularly severe, according to the University of Baltimore report, which was funded by Johns Hopkins University.

Maryland colleges offer education for higher-skilled biotech jobs, and a half-dozen community colleges offer some customized bioscience workforce training. But training programs for jobs that require only a high school diploma are currently producing only 10 percent of the projected annual number of openings for such jobs, the report notes.

Baltimore is fortunate to have the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland — a fledgling model program for getting high school graduates started in entry-level jobs as bioscience technicians.

The little-known institute, which the Greater Baltimore Committee has championed since its founding in 1997, offers tuition-free training as bio-technicians and job placement for city residents who are high school graduates. Research shows that the institute’s 176 graduates experienced an average salary increase of $6,600 the year after completing training.

Not surprisingly, the University of Baltimore report recommends expanding the BioTechnical Institute’s programs and replicating them in areas beyond Baltimore City.

Maryland’s business and political leaders should take note. This is an idea well worth finding a way to fund and implement.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.