DURHAM – North Carolina Central University aims to make it easier for area biopharmaceutical companies to fill job vacancies with qualified employees.

The school is beginning a new online program—Stackable Credentials to Strengthen the Pipeline to Biopharma—that will provide certification in several areas crucial to the biopharma industry. It’s offered through NCCU’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE).

About half the funding for the $1 million program will come from the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), headquartered at the University of Delaware. NIIMBL is a public-private organization created last year to support biopharmaceutical workforce development.

The North Carolina General Assembly has appropriated $10 million over five years to support NIIMBL projects, with $308,000 going to fund the Stackable Credentials program.

Parlays community college partnerships

NCCU will offer certification courses through its internet learning portal, NCCU Online. The program will compliment BRITE’s articulation agreements with several area community colleges. These agreements allow students earning Associate of Applied Science and several other two-year degrees to transition into the final two years of NCCU’s Bachelor of Science in pharmaceutical science. The schools participating in Stackable Credentials include Durham Technical Community College, Forsyth Technical Community College, Vance-Granville Community College and Alamance Community College.

Students from other colleges—and current industry workers who want to expand their skill sets—also will be eligible to participate, according to Kevin Williams, Ph.D., who led development of the proposal. “We believe the series of credentials can help students follow a seamless trajectory from community college into the biopharmaceutical sciences industry, or into the higher-level educational programs offered at BRITE,” he said. “The online delivery of the coursework also means they can acquire these credentials at their own pace.”

Courses will be available for enrollment during the spring 2019 semester, according to BRITE academic advisor Natacha Janvier-Derilus. Certificates will be offered in five areas:

  • Big data sciences for biopharma;
  • Project management for biopharma;
  • Regulatory sciences;
  • Manufacturing sciences; and
  • Good Laboratory Practice.

Students enrolled in the program also will have opportunities for externships at BRITE’s laboratories, where they can gain the hands-on experience so valuable to employment in the biopharmaceutical industry.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center