Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, WRAL TechWire features a story highlighting the NC Bio Jobs Hub initiative. Go to the Bio Jobs Hub for more stories and info on life sciences job opportunities made possible by NC’s workforce training initiatives.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Are you interested in joining the state’s growing agriculture and plant science industries? Responding to a need for trained technicians in plant agriculture, Durham Tech is launching the Bio-Agricultural Program Readiness Opportunity (BioAg Pro).

The program begins in April and combines classroom instruction and laboratory work with paid internships to provide students the foundational knowledge needed to enter the growing bio-agriculture workforce.

As part of her duties at Durham Tech, Ingrid Charles is responsible for keeping her finger on the pulse of the biopharma industry and its workforce needs. She recognized a few years ago that plant agriculture companies were hiring technicians, so when Kelly Chapman, business development manager at Cary-based Global Agricultural Development Corp. reached out to her about creating a grant-funded plant agriculture program, Charles was thrilled.

“Companies are coming to our region because we are able to create training programs in a short period of time,” said Charles. “My job as the director of the biotechnology program is to stay abreast of industry workforce needs and develop courses and programs that help students gain the skills the companies are looking for.”

Global Ag’s Chapman was hearing the same thing from her industry peers who are concerned about the growing workforce needs and training gaps.

“There has been a challenge, or gap, in the industry for entry-level positions that require workers to have some understanding of plant biology, soils, and environment Around this time, Chapman came across the federal workforce development grant BioAg Program Readiness Opportunity from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

BioAg PRO is the result of a partnership among Global Agricultural Development Corp., Durham Tech and North Carolina State University. It is supported by a $500,000 grant from the NIFA, an agency of the USDA that provides leadership and funding for programs that advance agriculture-related sciences. The four- to-six-month certificate program includes three modules:

  • GMP or SOP credentials
  • BioAg technology course
  • BioAg work-based learning Internship

Before applying for the grant, which outlines the parameters of BioAg Pro, including the 160-hour paid internships, Chapman and Charles reached out to Triangle-based ag tech companies in research and development including Greenlight, OerthBio, UPL and Syngenta, among others, to gauge their interest and willingness to participate in the internship program.

“We had a very good response from everyone,” said Chapman.

Charles and Chapman hope the program is replicated at community colleges across the state.

“This program will give students a technical foundation for plants and soils and prepare them to work in a landscaping company, garden center or research facility,” said Chapman. “The goal of this program is to provide them the foundation to succeed in bio-agriculture.”

For more information and to register for the class, visit the Durham Tech website.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center