Brian: Hello and welcome to this Competency Model Clearinghouse podcast. We're talking with Mary Ellen Clark, Executive Director of Bio-1, a workforce development partnership in central New Jersey. Bio-1 has been using the Bioscience Competency Model to support its workforce programs. Thank you for joining us Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen: Thank you, Brian.
Brian: Do you want to begin by telling us a little bit about Bio-1 and your role there?
Mary Ellen: As you had mentioned, we're a workforce development partnership in central New Jersey and, as most things are in New Jersey, we're named for a road, and that's the Route 1 corridor that runs between Rutgers University to Princeton University where many of the bioscience firms are clustered. We are home to the majority of the pharmaceutical headquarters as well as over 250 smaller biotechnology companies in New Jersey.
Bio-1 was funded through the U.S. Department of Labor WIRED program initiative and we've been running for about three years now. We've been building on existing networks in the education, training, and economic development communities to make ourselves really globally competitive and a cohesive talent development system for this bioscience industry, which is one of the key industries for our state. Our goal is to continue to create high-quality, high-paying jobs and a very skilled bioscience workforce to meet the needs of our companies.
Brian: So tell us, how did you learn about the Competency Model Clearinghouse, and why did you choose to use an industry competency model to support your programs?
Mary Ellen: Well, that's a great question. Through the WIRED initiative, we were put together with other regions who were also focusing on the biosciences and we had a special interest group called BIG, at one time, — Bioscience Industry Group — and we worked together on a number of issues that many of us were facing. And the Department of Labor brought to our attention that they were creating a competency model in the biosciences, and of course, we were very eager to participate. My background is from the private sector in the biosciences and we often used competency models to understand the talent needs for our workforce and also to identify skill gaps from our employees. So I was always a big fan of competency models and I was very anxious to work on this. So we had a small team that put together a lot of ideas and then I utilized the network we had here at Bio-1 to vet and give feedback on the model. So we had a network of our industry advisor experts as well as education leaders throughout the state, who helped to review and give feedback to create a very robust model, which I think this Bioscience Competency Model does represent.
Brian: That's great. So you and your team were able to participate in the actual development of the model, and now you're able to use it. Can you tell me more about how it's being used?
Mary Ellen: Sure. I think we were able to use this model quite creatively in a number of our initiatives. For example, one of our strategies is to create a robust and diverse future pipeline for the bioscience industry. So, many of the schools that we're working with were creating career-based curriculum in this area. Particularly, we had one very special career academy called the Monmouth County Biotechnology High School and they used this model to help inform their curriculum and ensure that they were preparing their students for careers and the skills sets needed by the bioscience industry. We have a network of biotechnology educators called the New Jersey Biotechnology Educators Consortium which included K-12 educators, which included higher education and technical schools, and they also utilized the model to ensure their curriculum were preparing their students for real jobs. Another way we used the model was in retraining workers for new jobs in the bioscience sector. For example, we had a number of shifts in the economic area here. We have a BRAC fort closing — Fort Monmouth is closing in September of 2011, and there are a number of civilian workers there who are not looking to transfer with the mission and are looking for jobs in other industry areas. So we also have people who've been let go from other shifts in our economy and we use this model to help them identify which skills they have that are transferable to the bioscience industry and also to help them identify skill gaps that they have that need to be addressed. And we've funded several short-term training programs to help up-skill workers who need some additional skills to get into the bioscience industry. So it's been very valuable there as well. Another practical use of the model is by placing both interns – student who are looking for short-term jobs – and full time job seekers, in this economy, into jobs in the bioscience industry. So one of our funded programs was creating a job-matching web site, which we built specifically and purposefully around the model. Our goal was to make it easy for companies to find talent and to make it easy for interns and particularly people who were transferring into this industry to be considered for positions based on their skill set. So, by incorporating the model into the search capacity of the site, employers are able to search for specific skills and interns and job seekers were able to highlight the skills that they had that made them ready for jobs in the industry.
Brian: Well, thank you very much, Mary Ellen. If you'd like to find more information about Bio-1, you can read the Bio-1 case summary or view the Bioscience Competency Model on this site. You can also visit the Bio-1 web site at www.bio-one.org. Thank you.