New bioscience skill standards created by National Community College Consortium

Funding for the bioscience skill standards research came from $15 million U.S. DOL grant,

A consortium of 12 community colleges from across the country, utilizing a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, has just completed a four-year project that created industry-recognized credentialing standards designed to develop a skilled bioscience workforce.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grant, awarded in 2012, was part of an initiative that supported President Barack Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. The consortium was led by the National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce, an affiliate of NC BioNetwork based at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, NC.

The Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials—or c3bc—consisted of 35 biotechnology educators from around the U.S. who engaged in a collaborative process to establish for the first time bioscience industry skill standards, credential programs, and break-through delivery methods to expand access to bioscience education and training opportunities for students, displaced workers and veterans.

c3bc’s goal was to help the high-growth bioscience industry identify ways to unlock its ability to recruit, hire and build careers for entry-level technicians in a complex marketplace by focusing on the bioscience industry hubs of Medical Devices, Biomanufacturing and Biosciences Lab Skills as well as Learning Technologies.

In less than four years, c3bc has engaged more than 170 colleges, employers, bioscience industry groups and workforce organizations, has served more than 3,000 students, and has achieved several groundbreaking results, including:

  • Creation of the first set of core bioscience skill standards that are being used nationwide by:
    • Educators to focus on curriculum design and teaching effort fundamentals to get students hired and promoted within the industry
    • Employers to help assess and evaluate their own training programs and the structure of student internship opportunities
    • Employees to help them understand the work functions and key activities they need to be successful in the workplace
  • Development of the first set of industry skill standards in the medical device arena where industry representation was present throughout the development process
  • Creation of new stackable and portable credential programs in the biosciences, as measured by the:
    • Introduction of four new two-year associate programs
    • Creation of 19 new certificate programs
    • Expansion and creation of six new science laboratories
  • Development of new cutting-edge processes, delivery methods and resources to help students more easily attain the credentials they need, including extended lab hours, new online and hybrid courses that reduce textbook expenses and scheduling barriers, and virtual tools that provide interactive instruction, assessments and links to additional resources
  • Creation and storing of 370 program elements on the free and open online library at

“The c3bc was an idea in 2012 that became a reality with the US DOL TAACCCT funding,” says Russ H. Read, c3bc project director and executive director, National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce, Forsyth Technical Community College. “Four years later, we can see how the fruits of our labor tie in very nicely for bioscience workforce education and training trends and needs expressed by educators, employers and workforce agencies.”

According to Dr. Gary Green, president, Forsyth Technical Community College, the c3bc’s success was due to the exceptional leadership of project director Read and all the hub leaders. “It’s also important to thank the consortium member’s college presidents for recognizing that the c3bc personnel could not do their jobs without their institutions’ support and guidance.”

“Technically skilled, multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary people can talk across different issues,” says William Pratt, vice president, Operations & Director of Creative Design at Kinamed©, a designer and manufacturer of implants and surgical instruments in Camarillo, CA. “They are the employees that really make our factories go.”

Laura Ascione