Lifeline for life sciences
$4M to connect 1,000 residents to good jobs
Boston is now considered to be the world’s largest hub for biotechnology, but many residents still “feel deeply disconnected” from the opportunities created by this local life sciences sector, Mayor Michelle Wu said.
The city, with the help of a $4 million grant, is looking to bridge that gap by establishing a new workforce initiative designed to train and get 1,000 Boston residents hired into the life sciences industry by 2025, Wu announced yesterday at the outset of the BIO International Convention in Boston.
“We are a city committed to innovation for community, for the good of our people and the good of the public,” Wu said. “We know that in the years ahead the regional life sciences industry will need thousands of new workers, and they continue to grow right here in Boston.
“And as the world’s leading life sciences hub, Boston must be prepared to meet that demand by drawing on the talent that lives right here in our city today. “
Standing alongside life science leaders in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Wu said the initial grant application round will seek proposals from organizations that are prepared to provide “industryaligned training and education programs” to connect city residents to “good-paying life sciences jobs and career pathways.”
The city is particularly interested in applicants with programs that include internships and hiring commitments at life sciences companies, Wu said.
Further, these organizations should offer training opportunities for “in-demand positions” within this sector — which ranges from research and development to manufacturing products and services that rely on fundamental knowledge in biology, biochemistry and related science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, subjects.
They should seek to empower residents without four-year degrees, particularly workers of color, women and immigrants, “all of whom are underrepresented in the industry today and ready and eager from our communities to contribute,” Wu said.
The grant, which includes a combination of funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and the city’s Neighborhood Jobs Trust, will also establish an “intermediary organization” that will provide additional support to workers, training providers and employers.
This support will be aimed at helping the relevant parties combat daily challenges like childcare and transportation, “to ensure that this inclusive pathway becomes a permanent fixture in the industry,” Wu said.
To combat the phenomenon of residents feeling “deeply disconnected” from the rapidly growing life sciences sector in their own backyard, Wu said the new initiative will also involve a public awareness campaign, to alert the community of potential career opportunities.
The American City Coalition, LabCentral Ignite and the Massachusetts Biotechnology
Education Foundation are the funded partners for this campaign.
Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Lauren Jones spoke of how the new initiative, part of a city-state partnership that aims to ensure job opportunities in the life sciences sector, will expand opportunities “to prepare our untapped diverse talent.”
“This significant growth happening right here for the life sciences industry is in the city of Boston, and needs to connect to the city of Boston,” Jones said. “We cannot afford to leave anyone behind as the city grows and workforce needs remain in high demand.”
The new initiative has the support of the HealeyDriscoll administration, she added, describing it as a “win-win” for all those involved.
“We’re investing in the success of Boston residents, and also our workforce, and certainly supporting the needs of local employers,” Jones said. “We are unlocking assets that are right here in our backyard.”
Gaelle Akaliza, a coordinator in quality assurance at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, one of the state’s largest biotech employers, said her career was made possible through a similar workforce development program, called Year Up.
The first six months of training through this program, which describes itself as providing equitable access to economic opportunity and education for all young adults, regardless of their background or zip code, was “intensive,” Akaliza said.
The technology certifications, along with the business and communications skills she acquired through this initial training period led to an internship at Vertex, Akaliza said.
She later landed a position at the company and is now pursuing a degree in healthcare management and communication,“she said.
“I joined Vertex because I wanted to help people,” Akaliza said. “I think that all these programs are here to help young people like me, and I think if we’re providing opportunities, and providing tools and resources to equip young adults like me, we’re creating a better future for all of us.”