By Nathan Rubbelke, St. Louis Business Journal | February 2, 2023
St. Louis innovation hub BioSTL plans to use a $2 million grant to launch a new statewide workforce training program focused on the bioscience industry and placing an emphasis on teaching skills to workers from underrepresented groups.
BioSTL has been awarded the $2 million grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development via fiscal recovery funds, part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The grant will be used to create the “Bioscience Industry Occupational Training and Equity Collaborative Hub for Missouri," or Biotech for Mo, an initiative designed to provide and expand training to meet the hiring needs of the bioscience industry statewide.
Biotech for Mo aims to be a "centralized hub” to partner with education, industry, government and community organizations to establish and expand training programs for bioscience occupations, BioSTL said. The Cortex-based nonprofit has teamed up with the Missouri Biotechnology Association and Kansas City-based nonprofit BioNexus KC to launch the program.
Justin Raymundo, director of regional workforce strategy at BioSTL, said the Biotech for Mo program has an initial goal of training at least 350 individuals across the state.
“A lot of that will come from the St. Louis ecosystem,” Raymundo said.
The Biotech for Mo program comes after a bioscience labor market analysis published last year by BioSTL forecasted hiring demands for the bioscience industry locally. That report found that over the next decade more than 1,400 job openings are expected in biosciences each year. It also emphasized the importance of training programs, with the study finding that about half of the expected job openings over the next decade won’t require a four-year college degree.
Raymundo said Biotech for Mo will focus on providing training programs that can help workers that were displaced from roles during Covid-19 and will seek to further diversify the bioscience workforce. It has a goal that at least 70% of individuals who go through the program will be from historically underrepresented groups, Raymundo said.
Biotech for Mo has forged relationships with a slew of partners who will help facilitate training for bioscience occupations. Some of its partners already offer bioscience workforce training, and Raymundo said Biotech for Mo will help expand those programs to meet employer needs.
“Because we have a lot of programs that are already scaling, we’re helping to meet the increased demand that we saw through Covid-19,” Raymundo said.
Employer partners for Biotech for Mo include Thermo Fisher Scientific, Ceva Animal Health, TriRX Pharmaceuticals, Ronawk, KCAS Bioanalytical Services and MilliporeSigma. The initiative is also teaming up with the Cortex Innovation Community and its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients Innovation Center @ Cortex, as well as academic partners including Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City and St. Louis Community College.
Raymundo said partnerships will also include working with community organizations to recruit trainees and help provide “wrap around” services, including childcare and transportation, to help individuals complete training programs. It is partnering with Rung for Women and Family Workforce Centers of America. The new training hub also plans to work with economic development and workforce organizations, including Mid-America Regional Council, St. Louis Agency for Training and Employment, St. Louis County Workforce Investment Board and Full Employment Council.