Durham Tech’s BioWork Plus Career Pathway Program graduates ready for job opportunities

November 11, 2016

Nine young adults recently celebrated completing Durham Technical Community College’s BioWork Plus Career Pathway program, an intensive, 12-week certificate program qualifying them for entry-level positions in the Triangle’s thriving biotechnology industry. Two days later, employers were on campus ready to provide those graduates with job opportunities.

“This is a powerful program that provides students with credentials for a good job after only two and a half months of training,” said program director Ingrid Charles.

An accelerated version of Durham Tech’s successful BioWork program, Durham Tech launched BioWork Plus to help non-college-bound high school graduates find rewarding careers in a thriving regional industry. The program covers science fundamentals and the basics of manufacturing technology for entry-level process technician jobs in biotechnology, pharmaceutical manufacturing and chemical manufacturing. Entry-level employees can earn on average $15 an hour.

Durham Tech provided scholarships to cover all course costs, including books and supplies. Durham County arranged free public transportation to the college’s north Durham campus for students who needed it.

Peter Wooldridge, Durham Tech’s vice president of corporate and continuing education, encouraged the graduates to continue to let the community college help them as they move forward. “We have a good relationship with employers and can help you with your next step.”

Graduate Regina Williams hopes her next step will be getting a foot in the door of a biotech company. She took the BioWork course to supplement her associate’s degree in nursing. “I have a passion to work with cells, so this was the perfect program to give me the tools I need to get going,” said Williams.

Classmate Michael Burton expects to be much better positioned for finding a job. “I started college after high school, but quit to get a job. But I was out there with no credentials,” said Burton. “This certificate puts me in the running for jobs alongside people with associate’s and even bachelor’s degrees.”

After working as a waitress and a cook, Mildred Ordonez Barillas decided to put education ahead of work. “This program was challenging, but will help to open doors for me,” said Barillas. She plans to go to college to pursue a biotech or nursing career path.

Prospective employers were on campus two days later at Durham Tech’s career fair. Among them was Caitlin Hammon, bulk manufacturing manager at Revlon in Oxford, who praised the BioWork program.

“This program gives students real-life applications, which gives them the ability to be employable in the workforce and successful in a job,” said Hammon. She promoted Revlon as an employer with tuition reimbursement for employees and in-house opportunities for advancement.

Brenda Clegg and Michelle Sproles represented Belflex Staffing Network, which specializes in finding employees for companies in manufacturing, production, light industry, logistics and pharmaceuticals. “This program is ideal because students graduate with a skill set clients are looking for,” said Clegg. Sproles said the BioWork program balances out the students’ lack of work experience, which can help them find work.

Wooldridge credited the success of the BioWork Plus Career Pathway program to the shared efforts of Durham Tech, Durham County, Durham Public Schools and Made in Durham. For information about upcoming programs, contact Ingrid Charles at charlesi@durhamtech.edu, or 919-536-7100, ext. 4402.

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