Top students prepare research presentations at Columbia College see more
On Thursday, June 16, Columbia College hosted the second annual Biomedical Research Program (CCBRP) Summer Research Symposium. Eight students worked to prepare and execute five research presentations on subjects ranging from the effects and social norms surrounding e-cigarettes to the genetic evolution in mosquitoes carrying Malaria. The CCBRP is funded through the South Carolina Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (SC INBRE), and the goal is to increase research capacity and create a network of research faculty and students in academic institutions across the state. Columbia College is one of 14 member institutions chosen to participate in the program.
The students represented: Darci Dawson, Arwen Wedgeworth, Seire Baker-Morgan, Gavin Rice, Jaquaya Adams, Kristin McConnell, Zhaire Casteal, and Tre’tavia Jackson were mentored by Dr. Adrienne Oxley, Dr. Vida Mingo, Dr. Chakia McClendon, and Dr. Mary Jon Barrineau. The students had six weeks to choose, research, organize, and presents their findings on their selected topics, and the results were a true representation of the caliber of student one can find at Columbia College. The hard work, dedication, and commitment were evident, and these values complimented the support and guidance shared by caring faculty advisors.
Columbia College is proud to be represented by such committed, intelligent, and well-spoken students in the Biomedical Research world. The institution looks toward the bright futures ahead of our 2022 Summer research Symposium Participants! Well done, Dr. Oxley and the entire Division of Health, Math, and Sciences team, who work tirelessly to make this program and all others, the resounding success they are!
SCBIO and Midlands Technical College Debut New Biopharma Certificate Program to Develop Talent for StateStudent find recruiters "ready and waiting" to interview themfor life sciences jobs see more
In recognition of the importance of adding talented workers for the booming life sciences industry in South Carolina, Midlands Technical College is the first in the state to launch the all-new SCBIO Life Sciences Pharmaceutical Manufacturing certificate program. The program will help to build a workforce pipeline for positions in what is now the Palmetto State’s fastest-growing industry.
To the gratification of many but the surprise of none of the organizers, the class was completely filled within 48 hours of registration opening. The inaugural class graduated May 6, 2022.
Developed in conjunction with SCBIO, the statewide organization dedicated exclusively to advancing and growing life sciences in South Carolina, the 48-hour curriculum was developed in partnership with numerous industry partners. The certificate program is the first of several planned for rollout over the next 12 months. A similar program is nearing launch at Greenville Technical College.
Highlights of the program include an overview of the pharmaceutical industry; introduction to quality assurance principles; a regulatory overview; documentation practices and measurement skills; and 12 hours towards Essential Skills for the Workplace certificate.
“Midlands Technical College is proud to be the educational partner for this pilot program that supports the life science industry, a high growth industry in the Palmetto State. We are always interested in providing our community with the education needed to be successful in the workforce,” said Ryan Hemby, Business Solutions Director for Midlands Technical College.
Tuition for the program is covered by industry partners. People interested in registering for upcoming classes should visit https://midlandstech.formstack.com/forms/scbio.
The pilot program, the first of its kind in South Carolina offered by the Technical College System, reflects the growing demand for skilled workers to continue fueling the rapidly expanding life sciences industry, which has a presence in 42 of the state’s 46 counties, boasts a more-than-$25 billion annual economic impact, and features average wages nearly 80% higher than South Carolina’s average wage.
“Life sciences is a major driver of South Carolina’s economy today, and this new certificate program is a first step in addressing the talent needs of the industry’s surging growth, reach and rapidly rising economic significance,” noted SCBIO Executive Vice President and COO Erin Ford, a key organizer of the statewide initiative. “We’re laser focused on doing all that we can to train, retrain and encourage South Carolinians to pursue and prepare for careers in life sciences, an industry that improves quality of life and economic standing for South Carolina citizens.”
While SCBIO is focused on developing programs for the Technical College System, it also has initiatives underway with state colleges and universities, connecting students interested in careers in life sciences with industry partners seeking talent, and with K-12 students where life science career paths and awareness of STEM opportunities are shared with schools and students statewide.
Recently, Governor Henry McMaster issued a proclamation recognizing South Carolina Life Sciences Week in the Palmetto State in testament to its growth of more than 42% since 2017. Since 2017, South Carolina also is growing its life sciences industry employment at a faster rate than any other Southeastern state, Ms. Ford noted.
Even the growth of the state’s firm count is extraordinary, having grown from 402 firms counted in the Palmetto State in the 2016 study to 1,033 firms today in the rapidly expanding ecosystem. And life sciences impact the entire state, with a current presence of industry organizations in 42 of 46 state counties.
Workforce efforts paying off for life sciences in SC see more
South Carolina’s life science sector creates twice as many jobs as the average of all other sectors in the state economy, according to a recent study, but whether it can fill those positions is another matter — especially in the manufacturing and logistics side of the house.
“It has historically been the majority of the time that you find a qualified person, they already have a job in M&L (manufacturing and logistics), so it has really been tough to fill the need,” said Josh Turner, a sales executive for Modjoul, a health-focused data analytics company that serves the manufacturing sector. Turner is also a former staffing professional.
He added that staffing companies pre-pandemic were filling positions with available people even if they weren’t trained or had any experience in the field.
“All I’ve heard since the pandemic is [that] it has been hard to even find available people, much less available and qualified people,” he said.
This gap is even more prominent in a life science field that sometimes requires more than the standard specialization or training. And to add insult to injury, few in-school training programs target this unique brand of manufacturing and logistics, said SCBIO interim CEO Erin Ford.
“The life sciences encompasses so many aspects from medical devices to pharmaceutical research and development to logistics in getting the drugs or pharmaceuticals or medical devices to where they need to be,” she said. “There's just so many aspects to the life sciences. And we really, as a state, have not focused on having any specific curriculum or programs that are specialized in this area.”
She argued that while the traditional medical careers such as nursing fall under the Life Science umbrella, industrial aspects of the sector often get overlooked in the classroom.
“It’s just not even a part of the discussion as to what career you want to have,” Ford said.
Since the economic development organization formed its Workforce Development Taskforce a few years ago, its more than 300 members have aimed to do something about that.
She hopes that 2021 (or early 2022) will be the year she can see their work come to fruition through a curriculum pilot geared toward two-year students in South Carolina’s technical college network.
Students upon learning about the field may often feel intimidated by the math or science components attached to a traditional science, technology, engineering and math field, she said, but really it’s the requirements of working in a clean room in the medical device field that can prove to be the most challenging.
And that is the gap Ford hopes the program will fill.
So far, Tri-County Technical College, Trident Technical College, Greenville Technical College and Midlands Technical College have signed on to the pilot, she said, which covers a track for pharmaceutical or biotech professionals and those seeking a career in the medical device field.
“We don't want to reinvent the wheel,” Ford said. “That's why we're working with a lot of the partners to add in more substance for life sciences. So if we see that there is more for us to do, we will definitely take that on.”
Life science companies in each region have already offered up some input to their needs and will continue to do so once the program launches: Trident Technical College has its ear to the ground for workforce demands of Alcami, Charles River Labs and Vikor Scientific while Tri-County Technical College is partnering with Arthrex, Abbott Laboratories and Poly-Med. Midlands Tech has an open channel to the demands of medical device companies Rhythmlink and Nephron Pharmaceuticals.
“You’ve seen the map, right? Of the 700 life science companies? The kids just don’t know,” she told GSA Business Report, adding that it’s the job of SCBIO and its partners to share the story of the state’s abundance of life science firms and manufacturers.
Medical device manufacturer Poly-med CEO Dave Shalaby said his company usually hires Clemson University graduates and has a strong in-house program, but now that the hiring climate has become so competitive in the Upstate, he has started to advise Tri-County Tech on courses that would expose students to the industry’s ISO 1345 standards and documentation.
“And really surprisingly, it's not really geared toward the sciences as much as it's geared toward control, like how to control processes and design, and also there's a lot of statistics involved with showing proof that you're adhering to specific specifications that you've set,” Shalaby said. “So basically the course outline that we set up with Tri-County is to give them exposure to those sorts of things.”
Tri-County instructors will teach company and industry requirements, he said, and help create a workforce pipeline to Poly-med, Arthrex and Abbott.
“Tri-County is developing that curriculum now,” he said. “They’ve got sort of a draft in place, and it’s got to come back out for everybody to take a look at it and see if it makes sense to create the course.”
The course would help prime students for employment at partnering industries like Poly-med, and Ford foresees a potential apprenticeship route on a case-by-case basis. SCBIO has been in conversation with Apprenticeship Carolina’s Carla Whitlock on those possibilities.
In the meantime, Ford encouraged other industry voices interested in contributing to the program through input or partnership to get in touch and jump on board.
“Reach out to us,” she said. “Reach out to me and SCBIO, because the more industry that we can have involved in these programs, the more successful it will be.”
More mentoring, better healthcare access for students on teh way see more
In collaboration with the South Carolina Technical College System, Spartanburg Community College (SCC), and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College (OCTech), Lauren Gellar, Ph.D., division director for Health Care studies at the MUSC College of Health Professions, developed new pre-health professions transfer tracks, specialized academic advising and a mentorship program to support students applying for the online BS in Healthcare Studies program. The institutions are working together to strengthen local communities in South Carolina by providing opportunities for students to live and work within their community while earning a bachelor’s degree. This is the first year that students have been able to register for one of these tracks and between SCC and OCtech, and there are nearly 60 students enrolled.
“I think the keywords are accessibility, opportunity, and affordability,” explains Jenny Williams, dean of Arts and Sciences at SCC. “Our Applied Associates of Science pre-health professions tracks are going to help them be better students while getting them where they need to be much sooner.”
The bachelor’s in science in Healthcare Studies program was created to increase access to the health professions higher education for rural, first-generation and underrepresented minority students across South Carolina. The program allows students to continue working and supporting their families while advancing their education at the only comprehensive academic health sciences center in the state. Many students that apply to the Healthcare Studies program have already earned an associate degree or completed the prerequisite courses at one of 16 two-year colleges within the South Carolina Technical College System.
The new pre-health professions tracks at SCC and OCtech enable students to complete the prerequisite coursework for health professions graduate programs while completing their associate degree. When they’re ready to transfer, they can complete their BS in Healthcare Studies degree at MUSC online and apply to the graduate program of their choice without completing additional coursework. Transfer partnerships like this reduce credit loss and save students money and time. The tracks also help increase awareness of the many career options in the health professions while providing structured support and academic advising. The first tracks developed are Pre-Medicine, Pre-Dental, Pre-Physical Therapy, Pre-Physician Assistant Studies, Pre-Occupational Therapy and Pre-Healthcare Administration.
OCtech’s, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Donna Elmore is thrilled about the collaborative effort. “The opportunity to open so many more doors for our students is very meaningful and exciting,” said Elmore. “The way these tracks and the Healthcare Studies program embrace and value the 2-year professional degree students already have is such an added value for the state of South Carolina.”
Stefanie Gadson Brown, dean of Pre-Health Professions and Workforce Development, believes the way they’ve designed their advising models at OCtech will be a game changer for students. “We want students to make sound decisions on what they want to do and explore that, so when they leave us, they’re not going into a program they don’t really know anything about,” Brown said. “Students gain exposure to what they might be interested in, both clinical and real-world job experience that allows them to earn an income and build a resume while they go to school.”
Many students enroll with a general idea of what they want to do – for example, working with children – but they don’t know what avenues are available. The advising models help students explore their options and find their dream job. Students who are considering more than one pathway can work with their advisor to select the courses that will provide them with insight and experience in each profession so they can make an informed decision on their future.
“Our AAS program gives students the empowerment and connections they need to move along efficiently, achieve their dreams and get to work in a much quicker fashion,” explained Williams. “The paths don’t guarantee admission, but if students do well, they’re going to solidify their own path.”
Gellar has always viewed mentorship as an integral part of the academic experience; she also enjoys it. In addition to the transfer tracks and specialized academic advising, she initiated an MUSC faculty mentorship program for SCTC students and alumni.
This past year Gellar received 15 applicants for the program and is now working directly with five students. They meet monthly to check in on their progress and she guides each student through the college application process. They work on topics including goal setting, academic advisement, career advisement, and soft skills training.
“To me, the mentorship program really speaks volumes to how far MUSC is willing to go to help our students and our community,” says Brown. “MUSC has really simplified the process, and Dr. Gellar goes above and beyond. Sometimes I forget that we don’t work at the same college. Any time I ask, Dr. Gellar is there. That’s how easy and consistent the working relationship is. I can’t say enough good things about the faculty, student services, and admission staff at MUSC.”
Brown has already noticed the impact that partnering with MUSC has had on OCtech and their students. “We always tried to have pathways set up for students, but I think what was really missing was MUSC,” she said.