Boston Herald

Lifeline for life sciences

$4M to connect 1,000 residents to good jobs

- By Gayla Cawley gcawley@bostonhera­

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.”

 ?? MATT STONE/BOSTON HERALD ?? CEO of Vertex, Reshma Kewalraman­i, speaks as Mayor Michelle Wu listens during the BIO Internatio­nal Convention at the BCEC on Monday in Boston.
MATT STONE/BOSTON HERALD CEO of Vertex, Reshma Kewalraman­i, speaks as Mayor Michelle Wu listens during the BIO Internatio­nal Convention at the BCEC on Monday in Boston.

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