WINSTON-Forsyth Technical Community College’s efforts to train biotechnology workers received a $5 million boost on Monday.

Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor, presented the college with the grant on Monday as part of a national $17.2 million high-tech job creation initiative. Four other institutions also received grants.

Forsyth Tech is one of a number of groups in the state seeking to capitalize on the region’s growing biotech industry. Various reports have cited the need for a better trained workforce in order to lure biotech and pharmaceutical firms to open new facilities in North Carolina or to expand existing ones.

The college is also in the process of building a five-story, 85,000 square foot building focused on technology. The $8.7 million facility is expected to be completed by spring 2005 with classes scheduled to start next fall.

Chao announced the grant at the Piedmont Triad Research Park in Winston-Salem.

The college said the funds would be used to develop curricula and training models for biotech workforce training.

Forsyth Tech and Guilford Technical Community College were selected last year to jointly manage the North Carolina BioNetwork Pharmaceutical Training Center. It will be one of five biotech centers created for the community college system. Forsyth Tech began offering an associate in applied science degree program in biotech in 2002.

“President Bush and I are committed to helping workers get the training they need to develop careers in growing fields like biotechnology,” Chao said. “This $5 million grant to five premier community colleges will establish a National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce. Through this center, training components will be developed for all major segments of the high-growth biotech sector.”

Other schools receiving grants were Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, Bellevue Community College in Washington State, MiraCosta Community College in San Diego, and New Hampshire Technical College.

The schools will make in-kind contributions of more than $7 million, according to the Labor department.