DURHAM, N.C. – A local company has formed a partnership with Durham Technical Community College to provide people with the needed skills to get jobs in the biotechnology industry.

KBI Biopharma hopes to create a pipeline from the school to life sciences jobs with its three-year apprenticeship program.

“This is going to be a key initiative and, really, a cornerstone of our strategy to drive a sustainable workforce for our sector,” KBI President and Chief Executive Dirk Lange said. “There is more demand than supply in terms of talent right now. There is a lot of competition for talent.”

The apprenticeship program includes 6,000 hours of on-the-job training and 1,000 hours of classroom work, culminating in an associate degree in applied science. KBI not only pays all of the tuition for the classes at Durham Tech, it also pays its apprentices a salary of $35,000 to $45,000 a year, plus benefits.

“This is near and dear to my heart, and I’ll personally follow the program to make sure we’re delivering on the promise we’re making,” Lange said, noting that he started his biotech career as an apprentice 25 years ago.

“The life sciences sector in the Triangle is exploding, and we know the life sciences sector wants access to great talent. Durham Tech wants to provide that,” school President J.B. Buxton said. “We believe with this partnership with KBI we are creating a model for how employers, community colleges and communities work together to ensure diverse talent pipelines in our community.”

Lange said the program is targeting high school graduates and veterans and aims to bring on four apprentices in July, with plans to expand to 10 to 20 next year.

“This program that they just identified is going to be awesome, especially for the young students coming in,” said Vincent Quiett, who recently finished up a certificate program at Durham Tech and hopes to find a job in the life sciences sector.

“I think you need to be proactive, and that’s a very good way of being proactive, to make sure those students get those opportunities,” Quiett said. “You’re bringing in this local talent to these companies in Durham.”