More teamwork needed to build state�s bioscience workforce, UMBI expert asserts

The state’s bioscience industry, labor and education leaders must strengthen their teamwork in order to meet the potential demand for a bioscience-ready workforce in the coming decades, a University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute expert recently told GBC members.

Maryland’s bioscience employers say that graduates of the state’s four-year colleges “generally are not prepared for the jobs they enter,” Gary Coleman, UMBI’s assistant vice president for outreach, told members of the Greater Baltimore Committee Education Committee at a July 7 meeting.

Fostering development of the bioscience industry in the Baltimore region and Maryland is among the GBC’s top strategic priorities.

Academic programs to prepare students for the bioscience industry “fail because teachers do not understand the industry,” said Coleman, who serves on the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board.

The industry must work with the state’s educators to develop a set of bioscience industry skills standards and benchmarks for educational systems in Maryland. Recommendations presented by Coleman include:

  • Introduce science and work-based learning in middle schools by including pre-algebra, other preparatory academic courses, and real-life applications in the curriculum.
  • Perform “gap analyses” of academic and training programs from high school through college levels to better match training to industry needs.
  • The bioscience industry must design professional development programs for educational faculty and for other training institutions.
  • Establishment of mutually agreed-upon guidelines for communication between higher education institutions, particularly regarding the transfer of academic credits from one school to another. “The issuer of transferability needs to be addressed,” said Coleman. For instance, the average student who earns an A.A. degree and transfers from a community college to a four-year college in Maryland loses between 12 and 15 credits in the process, he said.

In addition to being academically prepared, students must also ensure that they develop non-academic “soft skills” essential to succeeding in today’s work environment. Such skills include the ability to listen, to think independently, to solve problems, and to speak intelligently, said Coleman. “People aren’t coming into the workforce with soft skills. People have to know how to operate within a social group.”

Governor’s Workforce Investment Board’s detailed overview of Maryland’s bioscience industry

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