Speaking to the Southern Governors Association in August 2014, former President Bill Clinton articulated his theme for economic development: "Everywhere in the world and everywhere in America where there are networks of cooperation, good things are happening."
This spirit of cooperation has led to a community college network of collaboration in biotechnology workforce development beginning with investments by the National Science Foundation in the late 1990s.
In 1998, the NSF established BioLink, an Advanced Technology Education project hosted at the Community College of San Francisco supporting the growing biotech sector.
In 2004, the U. S. Department of Labor, building on the President's High Growth Job Initiative in the Bush administration, funded the National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce (NCBW) at Forsyth Technical Community College. Though centered in North Carolina, the network extended to other states and cities with biotech strengths - Iowa, New Hampshire, San Diego and Seattle.
In the 10 years since the NCBW was established, Labor has continued its support for biotechnology workforce development with investments in an expanded network of colleges led by the NCBW through the Workforce Innovations for Regional Economic Development Initiative and the Trade Adjustment Act Community College and Career Training grant program. NSF has invested in the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative (2008), the Bioscience Industrial Fellowship Project, and other biotech or bioscience projects.
Today, community colleges and their employer partners in the biotechnology sector from San Francisco to Winston-Salem, Austin to Madison, are reaping the benefits of these years of investment and effort - a network of federal agencies, community colleges, and employers working together.
Today, there is clearinghouse of best practices in curriculum and pedagogy. BioLink and NCBW provide technical support for colleges developing curricula and implementing training. A national policy capability is in place for biotechnology workforce development through a strategic partnership between NCBW and the Manufacturing Institute and the NCBW and BioLink relationship with BIO, the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
James Greenwood, CEO of BIO, summarizes the current state: "There's no limit to our challenges. There's no limit to what we have to learn. And there is no limit to our ability to use this knowledge to good purpose." (Educating Biotechnicians for Future Industry Needs).