(Editor’s Note: Robin Deacle is vice president of corporate communications at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. She provides here an in-depth look at workforce topics discussed last week at BIO 2014 conference.)

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Workforce was the topic as three biomanufacturing leaders sat down to chat Tuesday at the North Carolina pavilion at BIO 2014.

Biogen Idec’s Machelle Sanders and GlaxoSmithKline’s David Stewart discussed the importance of talent to success. Nathaniel Hentz added the perspective of the Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC), one of the partners training that talent.

BTEC is one part of the NCBioImpact consortium, established to prepare biomanufacturing workers to be job-ready on day one.

As Biogen added to its multiple sclerosis treatment lines in Research Triangle Park, and grew its patient services business there, the company had agreements in place with the university and community college systems to train the workforce. This kept Biogen from having to divert resources from its main business – serving the patient.

“As Biogen Idec has grown its manufacturing operations in Research Triangle Park, we have been able to recruit and retain an outstanding workforce to support our business and the patients we serve,” Sanders said.

GSK is at a similar point, looking to expand the number of production lines at its Zebulon facility. The state’s training programs have helped to update skills from some of GSK’s long-term employees. In addition, GSK has four student interns who work on projects to improve business processes for the company.

“These are projects that would have been pushed down the line; they would not have gotten done,” Stewart said. “The cost was basically nothing, so the ROI was unmesasurably high.”

Stewart also said the training consortium helps polish manufacturing’s image.

“They take looking at all of that stainless steel – which can be intimidating – and make it enticing,” Stewart said.

But North Carolina used a secret ingredient to put together that world-first, best-practice training program.

“It’s a partnership,” said BTEC’s Hintz. “North Carolina’s done a fantastic job with this. It’s not just one entity or another providing a service. It’s a strong economy built on connections.”

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center