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Step up to the Chairman’s Challenge

Education is the lifeblood of Northern California’s R&D success. Our workforce has propelled us forward into new areas of innovation and allowed our region to become one of the most productive and respected life science clusters in the world.

Alarmingly, California ranks 48th out of 50 states in student performance in science and 45th in math. To develop the workforce of the future, we need to invest time and resources into our education system, to step in where the state is failing to ensure that our students have access to the careers that will underscore the continued success of Northern California’s life science cluster.

During the 2010 BayBio Pantheon Ceremony, BayBio Chairman Paul Hastings stated that we can bring about positive change if we speak as a unified community.  Our community needs to step up to the Chairman’s challenge.  The Pantheon highlighted a few of the programs, teachers and students who are assisting us in preparing the next generation of life science professionals.  This year, the San Mateo Biotechnology Career Pathway received the 2010 Biotechnology Educator DiNA Award. Students from Ellyn Daugherty’s and Jimmy Ikeda’s classrooms presented the Pantheon Awards to recipients.  These students met Lifetime Achievement recipients Dr. Paul Berg and Hollings Renton at a pre-program VIP reception and had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Tony Coles during the program. As Ms. Daugherty said to us after, the experience was “life changing” for her students.

We need to encourage more of these student-industry interactions. BayBio has established Bio-Community.orgprecisely for this purpose. We are actively encouraging our members to volunteer and provide financial support to Bio-Community.org to help us bring potentially life-changing STEM- (science, technology, math and engineering)based interactions to local students and educators.

The work being done through Bio-Community.org needs your assistance and your participation. This year, we are promoting a Science Holiday e-card. When you purchase this e-card, you can share it with your staff, your clients or friends. Proceeds go towards supporting Bio-Community.org and help raise awareness of the program and the need to improve science education.

Other promising ways that our industry is developing the biotech workforce are outlined in the California Biotechnology Foundation’s guide to California’s workforce development programs: Building California’s BiotechnologyWorkforce. Our region’s life science companies have established or sponsored multiple programs to grow a highly skilled workforce, including programs in K-12 science education, community college advanced biotech, and professional development training for incumbent workers. Read the report here.

Another way we can step up to the challenge is to voice our opinion in Sacramento and advocate for reform of  California’s education system. Tell our legislators that we need California to lead the way by supporting science education programs and public schools.  As we ask legislators to increase funding for education, we are asking you to support local science education by joining our efforts at www.Bio-Community.org.  We need more science role models for students, more interactions with teachers and more overall involvement from our community.

Our strength as an industry is in our numbers. These are just a few of the ways we encourage our member companies and individual life science employees to get involved in support of life science education and workforce development. Our industry needs a strong pipeline of future employees. Our students need us today to help them get there. Please help us step up to this important challenge.