Fortifying the Pipeline for LA County’s Bioscience Workforce
Nineteen high school students from Compton Manuel Dominguez High School graduated from the Bio-Flex Pre-apprenticeship program, created to expose and offer high school and college students’ hands-on experience at a Bioscience company. The program is a flexible, yet structured career pathway for the next generation of Bioscience workers in LA County. So far, more than 75 students have graduated from the Bio-Flex program after being placed with companies such as Takeda, Oak Crest Institute of Science, Protomer Technologies, and Pasadena Bio Collaborative Incubator.
(Left to Right) Bio-Flex Graduates Emily Soriano, Vera Hutchings, Gabriel Sianez, and Andrea Morando
“Thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Bio-Flex program. I see myself working in the forensic science department in the near future and I would like to thank this program for giving me the opportunity to see different types of career choices. My favorite part of the program was getting to meet people from different companies and understanding their stories and seeing how they work.” – Bio-Flex Graduate Vera Hutchings.
In 2015, in a motion authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, he directed the County of Los Angeles to study key industries for job growth and economic development. The result was the development of a Countywide Bioscience initiative that included the formation of the Bio-Flex program to create pre-apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship training opportunities for underrepresented communities.
“Bio and life sciences have seen tremendous growth over the past several years, particularly in LA, where the industry outpaced the economy during the last economic slowdown,” said David J. Whelan, Chief Executive Officer of BioscienceLA, the regional innovation catalyst seeded by the Bioscience Initiative. “Today, as we weather both healthcare and economic crises, the industry is poised for significant expansion, which will create numerous new jobs in the LA region, which will in turn require new training and development programs. We are building the future of health innovation today through programs like Bio-Flex.”
In a partnership that includes the South Bay Workforce Investment Board (SBWIB), and the County of Los Angeles Workforce Development, Aging, and Community Services Department (WDACS), El Camino College, West Los Angeles College, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, Cal State Dominguez Hills, BioCom, RxRS Foundation, and Training Funding Partners, this innovative workforce pipeline program has worked to increase diversity in the Bioscience sector by training the next generation for bioscience jobs that include lab coat careers as well as manufacturing careers such as production, equipment and quality control technician.
“I am grateful to have been in this Bio-Flex program! If you’re looking to soon be employed, I recommend this program as it strengthened my skills and confidence! This program has opened up my eyes even more in this field which I seek to pursue.” – Bio-Flex Graduate Gabriel Sianez
The Compton cohort of Bio-Flex students from Manuel Dominguez High School represent the most diverse class yet to graduate from this program. The graduating class was composed of all students of color, which included seventeen females and two males. They were exposed to employer-approved online training courses providing skills needed to succeed in the life science field. This year’s student program concluded with a virtual career day featuring a remote tour of the new BioLabs at The Lundquist Institute, along with a discussion on career pathways and a tour from the PolyPeptide Group, a company that manufactures and develops peptide active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in Torrance.
The Compton High School teacher who leads the class, Dr. Olushina Oshinuga, said “The students who participated and completed the Bio-Flex program saw the great opportunity presented, and they were not afraid to go after it. They were determined to succeed.”
“I want to thank Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the South Bay Workforce Investment Board for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the Bio-Flex Program. My knowledge has increased so much day by day, especially helping me be prepared for an actual job interview. I had so much fun and gained greater knowledge. Thank you.” – Bio-Flex Graduate Andrea Morando.
Recently, SBWIB received approval from the United States Department of Labor to register two apprenticeship occupations, Bio-Manufacturing/Production Technician and Biomedical Equipment Technician. A Bio-Manufacturing/Production Technician or Assistant works in the lab and adheres to standard operating procedures to safely mix, inspect, and test bio-medical goods. The Biomedical Equipment Technician inspects and tests malfunctioning medical or related equipment, following manufacturers’ specifications and using test and analysis instruments.
The apprenticeships have been approved for ages as young as 17 years old. It will be up to the bioscience employer to decide what age to hire but creating an apprenticeship that allows youth to become an apprentice is a unique and innovative feature of these non-traditional apprenticeship models. SBWIB engaged several employers who are participating in the Bio-Flex program and have helped to craft the design of the training plans. One of these employers includes Bachem Americas, a company that manufactures API’s as well as innovative biochemicals for research purposes. Bachem has expressed interest in taking on an apprentice along with many other employers such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, Freudenberg Medical, Sakura, Takeda, Oak Crest Institute, Protomer Technologies and Pasadena Bio Collaborative Incubator.
“It has been a pleasure to work with the Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to set up the Bio-Flex program. These new apprenticeship models will provide so many fantastic career opportunities for young people throughout our community for years to come,” said Jan Vogel, SBWIB Executive Director.
Youth interested in an exciting bioscience career should visit the Bio-Flex website https://www.sbwib.org/bioflex for more information and apply for an apprenticeship using the South Bay WIB’s resume portal.
Thank you for the Bio-Flex program, I got the chance to experience and learn many new things that I might need in the future. Practicing for an interview was a really good exercise to see where I was for when I apply for a job. The field trip to Bachem was very fun and interesting. It was great to see how the medicines I take were made. Thank you for offering me this program!
This year, I took the Human Body Systems course at my school and I had the wonderful opportunity to be part of the Bio-flex program! This opportunity was very eye opening for me and I had a great experience! Going to Bachem and seeing the process of drug and medicine making, listening to many interesting speeches and practicing for job opportunities and interviews for the future; it was all a great experience! Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this fantastic program and for all of your hard work to make this happen! I appreciate this opportunity so much! Again, thank you!!
I wanted to personally thank you for giving me such an amazing opportunity to further my experience and education. Without you, I would never have had a chance to be a part of a program like Bio-flex; I am extremely grateful and lucky. This program gave me the chance to visit Bachem, a company I have never heard of until that day. I have learned about biotechnology through the courses. You have helped me become a great asset to the future. Thank you!
Thank you so much for giving students like me an opportunity to join Bio-flex to help me expand my knowledge. This whole course widened my perspective on many things like finding a job, how to keep a job, how to excel at what you do. It also helped me find the different jobs in the science field and how their roles affect us. This whole experience has me feeling at ease now that I know what course of action I want to take and what path I want to follow. I think this apprenticeship was a great idea and one that should be repeated again for kids like me to know and feel more comfortable in what we need to do. Thank you for this opportunity and hopefully this program continues to exist in the following years.
I am a senior that was lucky enough to participate in the Bio-flex Apprenticeship that you organized very well. I wanted to thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn more about the job process and the diagnostics of medicine. Through this apprenticeship, I was able to expand my knowledge on many scientific processes and how to get a job. These are things that are useful in my life, so I am looking forward to applying my newfound knowledge to my future. I also want to thank you for organizing the field trip to Bachem. It was my first time seeing science labs in person, so it was an exciting experience. I have always been a science kind of student, so it was very interesting to see how scientists worked. Again, thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity to learn more about the science behind medicine.
Los Angeles, CA
Henry He will be a senior this fall 2019 at Don Bosco Technical Institute (class of 2020). His area of interests are in material science and biochemistry. Henry He participated in the Bio-Flex program to get hands-on experience in a lab field. Interning with Pasadena Bio Collaborative gave him that exposure.
“I really appreciate Pasadena Bio Collaborative and Amgen for offering me this opportunity”
Ani Bernardi is a rising senior at Flintridge Preparatory School in La Canada. She is passionate about science and biology and hopes to pursue a career in medicine. Ani enrolled in the Bio-Flex program for the experience. Interning for Pasadena Bio Collaborative furthered her interest in biology and gave her an opportunity to get hands-on experience in a nurturing environment.
“I am very thankful for Pasadena Bio Collaborative and to Amgen for giving me this unique opportunity. I am confident that I will use everything that I learned here in the future.”
Sesar Juarez, 22 from Los Angeles, is a 2018 graduate of Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. He was one of the first candidates to have been accepted into the new Bio-Flex Pre-Apprenticeship Program that enables students to gain on-the-job experience with leading bioscience firms throughout the region. By the end of summer, the SBWIB will have graduated more than 40 students who will have received training as bio-science pre apprentices at firms throughout Los Angeles County.
Sesar showed interest in the Bio-Flex Pre-Apprenticeship program and enrolled in January 2019. He immediately submitted requirements and got started with the training. Sesar completed the first stages of his training by April 2019 and proceeded to work on his paid work experience.
Sesar completed 120 hours of pre-apprenticeship with the Pasadena Bio Collaborative and has recently been hired full-time as a Laboratory and Facilities Technician with Santa Monica – based Provivi, Inc.
“My success in following my desire to work in bio-manufacturing was due to the Bio-Flex program and the “real skills” that I was able to learn.”