With the need for chemical manufacturing skills on the decline in Massachusetts, the prospects for 20 chemical workers who were recently displaced by Polaroid Corp. in Waltham, Mass., seemed dim. Fortunately for them, Polaroid chose to collaborate with Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) Division of Corporate and Professional Education to develop a program aimed at giving these workers new skills that are in great demand by the state's biosciences and biomanufacturing industry, which is undergoing tremendous growth. The program, called "The WPI-Industry Collaborative," is one of the first programs to retrain chemical workers to work for life sciences companies. The workers graduate on Thursday, April 19.
Polaroid paid for the program in full by securing a Massachusetts Department of Employment and Training grant. The former chemical workers, who had spent between 10 and 25 years with the company, will receive a certificate in "Fundamentals of Biotech Manufacturing: A Hands-on Approach." The curriculum, developed by WPI faculty members and industry experts, relied heavily on hands-on training in an environment that simulates the controlled activities that are critical for success in biomanufacturing. The participants actively participated in a full, biomanufacturing process with the core technology being an E. coli fermentation process, enabling them to be productive from their first day on their new jobs, saving companies valuable time and money.
In addition to giving the workers new skills, the program will connect them with potential employers. The instructors – from Abbott, Genzyme Corp., Lonza, and Bristol-Myers Squibb -- for the five-week course, which started March 19, were not only subject matter experts from industry, but potential hiring managers who can connect the trainees to the network of biomanufacturing hiring personnel. One possible future employer is Bristol-Myers Squibb, which has plans to build a major biomanufacturing facility in Fort Devens, Mass. Three students already have jobs with Johnson Matthey Pharma and Genzyme.
Speakers include: WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey, Stephen Flavin, dean of WPI's Corporate and Professional Education, and D'Anne Hurd, vice president for business development at Gateway Park. Attendees include: Polaroid program sponsors, instructors, WPI faculty and staff, WPI alumni, and, potentially, Massachusetts Department of Employment and Training representatives.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Higgins House Great Hall
100 Institute Road