Bioscience jobs boom is creating opportunity for PCC students
Photos and Story by Alfredo V. Moreno
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical importance of the work being done by bioscience companies, which are experiencing rapid job growth. According to the Portland Business Journal, jobs in the biosciences in Oregon grew from 5,698 postings to 8,651 postings from 2017 to 2019.
Portland Community College’s Bioscience Technology Program is an integral part of providing qualified and trained workers to meet this burgeoning demand. It partners with industry leaders to develop curriculum and training that is in line with industry standards.
Josh Cary, chair of the program, said that PCC’s bioscience training provides a “bridge” for students, taking them from a science education and career skills development all the way to employment. They can find jobs in the biomanufacturing of biologics, medical device development and production, agricultural applications, biofuels, environmental testing, and more. Many secure an entry-level position in one of these areas and continue their education by earning further credentials and progress with the company.
The Strategic Plan: Workforce
- The 2020-2025 Strategic Plan prepares the college for the future of higher education, addressing the impacts of the pandemic on academics, preparing to adapt to future enrollment and demographic shifts, and more.
- With its commitment to developing local industries like bioscience, the college responds to community and workforce needs by developing a culture of agility.
“Graduates find that they are well prepared, and some receive multiple job offers after completing the program,” Cary said. “Individuals with the right skills and the motivation and determination to contribute to new biomedical products and technologies will find extensive opportunities to begin and grow a career in the bioscience industry.”
Statewide, the bioscience industry provides overall employment for 47,000 workers with an average annual salary of more than $70,000, according to the Oregon Bioscience Association. Twist Bioscience, a San Francisco-based synthetic biology and genomics company, is building a 110,000-square-foot facility dubbed the “Factory of the Future” in Wilsonville that will eventually employ as many as 400 workers. According to Twist Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Angela Bitting, developing a strong foundation of local talent will be essential.
“We view Portland Community College as a key partner in our ability to recruit talented employees in this area,” Bitting said. “Twist has been working with community colleges in the Bay Area to recruit well-trained students who have made valuable contributions to our manufacturing organization and grown their careers. We would like to find a similar relationship with Portland Community College where graduating students are well-trained for jobs at Twist and find a satisfying career path for their future.”
Rob Manni, who graduated from PCC’s Bioscience Program in 2017, said there’s no better training for prospective students interested in working in a lab setting. He works for Beaverton-based Sedia Biosciences and its subsidiary, Floragenex, as a customer success specialist. And while his current job is outside the lab, Manni said the foundational training he received at PCC was invaluable for his career prospects.
“It’s made it easier for me to understand researchers and our client base from a technical perspective,” Manni said. “If you want to be able to work in the lab, this is the program. This will set up a student to not only be competitive with a skillset, but also allow them to see what kind of work is involved when thinking about continued education.”
Bioscience student Esmey Javier Ramirez is discovering her own promising path. The Beaverton High School grad has turned her love of science into a highly marketable trade as a bioscience technician. After graduation, she hopes to secure a research-based job and recently started a lab research internship at the Oregon Health and Sciences University that has allowed her to directly apply her PCC training.
“When I entered the laboratory at OHSU I was able to recognize some of the machinery, lab protocols and I could really ask myself If I wanted to continue in this career path,” Javier Ramirez said. “I like the environment, the people, and the work, and it has really only strengthened my passion that this is the type of place I want to be.
“Biotechnology, specifically this degree at PCC, is much more accessible, affordable and flexible,” she continued. “With access to internships, job opportunities, company tours and professors to guide you, anyone who loves science, technology and knows they want to work in this industry, should start here.”