Report cites need to expand BioTechnical Institute’s bioscience workforce training

A recent report by the University of Baltimore urges the continued expansion of the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc. (BTI), a Baltimore nonprofit that trains city residents who are high school graduates and places them in biotech industry jobs.

The report evaluates the workforce development programs of BTI, which was founded in 1998 by a Johns Hopkins geneticist to offer tuition-free training for jobs in Maryland’s expanding biotech industry. Bioscience workforce development is a key priority for the Greater Baltimore Committee which recently facilitated a $250,000 award to BTI from Baltimore City to help fund a pre-training program.

Since BTI’s founding, 176 of its students have earned certificates as lab technicians.

The lack of available workers, from entry-level to those with advanced degrees, is a key constraint on the current and expected growth of Maryland bioscience industry, the report notes.

Funded by the Johns Hopkins University, the report details the findings of research performed by the Jacob France Institute of the University of Baltimore. It provides insights into the workforce issues impacting the biotech industry, which is critically important to the economic future of the Baltimore region and to the state. Researchers interviewed foundation executives, bio-industry leaders, economic development officials and workforce training experts.

“A key finding of this report is that 38 percent of jobs in Maryland’s growing bioscience sector require only a high school diploma and appropriate training,” said GBC President & CEO Donald C. Fry. “This underscores the value of BTI’s work to provide tuition-free technical, hands-on laboratory training to qualified unemployed and underemployed high school graduates.”

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.

The report recommends replication of BTI’s programs in other areas of Maryland.

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

Other findings of the report include:

The average BTI graduate experiences a salary increase of $6,661 in the year after completing training.

Eighty percent of BTI training program graduates are employed in the first full quarter immediately following completion of their training. Nearly 75 percent of all BTI graduates were employed in the fourth quarter of 2005, including 86 percent of the very first cohort that graduated in 1998.

The BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc. is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. It offers a 12-week, tuition-free Laboratory Associates Program approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The hands-on laboratory training carries six credits from Baltimore City Community College and matches motivated and skilled unemployed or underemployed entry-level workers with industry career opportunities.

BTI also offers a 12-week pre-training program. Named BioSTART, the preparatory program provides bright, motivated prospects with academic reinforcement and orientation to the bioscience industry.

BTI’s funding was initiated by The Abell Foundation, a GBC member that continues its funding support. Other GBC members who are major supporters include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, East Baltimore Development Inc., and the Goldseker Foundation.