Saturday, October 4, 2008 - 01:00
Long Branch, NJ, is a lovely town on the Atlantic Ocean, with long beaches and brand new shops and condos. It is also part of an area in, central New Jersey, where biotechnology education is entering an exciting time thanks to efforts of NJBEC, Bio-1, and a WIRED grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. NJBEC, Bio-1, WIRED? What do all these acronyms mean? I get these things confused all the time, so I'll take a quick moment and explain. NJBEC is the New Jersey Biotechnology Educators Consortium. Bio-1 is a partnership between five counties and several schools in central New Jersey, that began with a statewide economic development strategy initiated by former Governor Jon Corzine. Bio-1 is the group that received the WIRED grant. WIRED stands for workforce innovation in regional economic development. The money that funds these grants comes from the H1B visa program. So when companies hire foreign workers, and pay the H1B visa costs, that money goes into developing talent here in the U.S. and stimulating regional economies. How are the WIRED $$ being used? New Jersey is using the WIRED money as a catalyst to fund a number of impressive projects and build connections between schools, teachers and companies. To paraphrase Dr. Micheal Palladino, Director of NJBEC, Dean of the School of Science, Technology and Engineering, at Monmouth University, lots of schools were developing biotech programs, but none of the schools new about each other. They were unable to learn from each other, unable to share information, and unable to work together, since they didn't even know that the other programs existed. NJBEC plans to change that. Helping students find summer opportunities Bio-1 has made a nice site to connect students to schools, schools to each other, and all the educational system to biotech companies. One example of their work can be seen on the Bio-1 website. Students looking for summer work have a great resource in Bio-1 (www.bio-one.org). This site lists roughly 42 summer programs for students in New Jersey and has links to all the programs. This should help greatly in connecting students to opportunities. And, I think this is a great model for other states and educational organizations to emulate.