Editor’s note: This week’s Deep Dive feature focuses on expanded jobs and career opportunities through the North Carolina BioWork program.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Three Triangle area public school systems, in partnership with community college systems and several supporting companies, have stepped up to offer their students a certificate program to help them prepare for careers in biomanufacturing.

Starting in Spring 2024, Johnston County Public High Schools and Durham Public Schools will offer BioWork, a statewide certificate program that teaches the fundamentals of working as a process technician in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or chemical manufacturing facilities.

“Completing BioWork alongside their high school degree provides young people with essential exposure and foundational skills to launch into a career in biomanufacturing.” said Laura Rowley, vice president of life science economic development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. “With over 100 biopharma manufacturing sites in NC, this is an exciting advancement to connect more young North Carolinians with careers that truly make an impact in a strong sector.”

Johnston Community College and Johnston Country Public Schools, with support from Novo Nordisk and Grifols, are partnering to offer BioWork in all of Johnston County’s traditional public high schools.

Early college students in Wake County also have the opportunity to complete BioWork. Last week BioWork students at Wake Tech, Wake County Public Schools’ Wake Early College for Information and Biotechnologies (WECIB), and biopharma students at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy received lab coats donated by FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies. The company is sponsoring 500 lab coats for current and future biotechnology students.

White Coats event
BioWork students in their new lab coats from FUJIFILM Diosynth.
-Photo from Wake Tech

“Seeing the students accept and put on their lab coats today gave me a great sense of pride,” said Christine Vannais, COO, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, RTP. “Biotechnology is a rewarding field, and the work we do every day ultimately benefits patients. Having supportive partners such as Wake Tech helps prepare the workforce of the future to ensure North Carolina has highly skilled biotech individuals ready to embark on a meaningful career in life sciences.”

High-demand biopharma career paths in Johnston Co.

Johnston County high school juniors and seniors will be able to complete the BioWork course in one semester, as part of a pre-apprenticeship, through its Career and College Promise program.

“This program will help propel many Johnston County students into success while in school and afterwards as they begin their journey into high-demand biopharmaceutical career pathways that are available in our community,” said Johnston County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy, in a news release. “We are extremely thankful for our community partners who have collaborated to provide this innovative opportunity for our students.”

The BioWork certification will count as one year of work experience in a biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility if the student is hired after graduating high school. Novo Nordisk and Grifols, Johnston County’s largest biopharmaceutical manufacturing companies, support the new program.

“We are proud to partner with the Johnston County Public School System to provide this unique and valuable workforce training at their schools. Completing this certificate will set students up for success in a biotechnology career,” said JCC President Dr. Vern Lindquist.

Reno Palombit, the director of career and technical education for JCPS, agreed. “This partnership is another step in our mission that every Johnston County Public Schools graduate has a plan for their future and the skills, knowledge, and aptitudes to make it a reality,” Palombit said.

Completion of the certificate allows students to enroll at JCC with the equivalent of two curriculum classes toward an associate degree in Biotechnology. Johnston County high school graduates are also eligible to pursue an associate degree tuition-free at JCC for up to four academic semesters through the JoCo Commissioners Program.

BioWork classes in Johnston County’s traditional public high schools begin this spring. For more information on the program, visit: https://www.johnstoncc.edu/programs/career-and-college-promise/wcePathways.aspx.

In addition, JCPS will bring its 8th graders to the JCC campus Nov. 2-3 for a program called JoCo Works, a collaboration between industry partners (including Novo Nordisk and Grifols), the Triangle East Chamber, and JCPS.

BioBlitz, Acceler8 in Durham Public Schools

Similarly, Durham Public Schools students will soon be able to leverage Career and College Promise to complete the BioWork certificate while still in high school. At a new career exposure day called Bio Blitz, Durham Public Schools will expose students at each of its comprehensive high schools to biomanufacturing careers and the opportunity to enroll in BioWork at Durham Technical Community College, beginning Spring 2024.

Bio Blitz day is a collaborative partnership with DPS’s Career and Technical Education Department, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Durham Technical Community College, and several industry partners including KBI, Lilly, and Novo Nordisk.

Acceler8 photo
Michael Cannon from Amgen joins Laura Rowley and Jacob Key
from NCBiotech at Acceler8 at Durham Public Schools.

“Programs like BioWork are not only preparing students for the future, but also offering the promise of rewarding careers in the biomanufacturing industry,” said Shaylah Nunn Jones, Government & Public Affairs at Novo Nordisk, a longstanding biopharma employer in NC with locations in JoCo and Durham. “The skills and knowledge gained through these programs are fundamental to most of the diverse manufacturing roles we hire at Novo Nordisk, as well as the other 650 biotech sites in the Triangle region alone. That’s what makes this so exciting – we’re not just preparing our youth, we’re equipping our future workforce with secure, well-paid jobs.”

In addition to Bio Blitz day, DPS is hosting a career exploration day called Acceler8, the result of a collaboration between DPS, The DPS Foundation and community stakeholders.

To learn more about BioWork at DPS, visit https://www.durhamtech.edu/dual-enrollment/ccp-enrollment-interest-meeting to register to attend a Career and College Promise program information session on Oct. 25 or Nov. 7.

More than 2200 8th graders will have the opportunity to visit exhibits and participate in hands-on activities from over 100 employers located in Durham and the surrounding areas, including Merck, Novo Nordisk, GSK, and Biogen. In addition, students will complete pre- and post-activities that will determine which industries will match their career interests. The goal of this event is to ensure that all DPS students are on the right track to becoming “future ready.”

Plans are already underway for Central Carolina Community College to offer a high school pathway in Biotechnology and BioWork starting Fall 2024 for Junior and Seniors in Harnett County. Registration for the program will take place during the high school registration process for the upcoming school year during the Spring 2024 semester. If you would like additional information regarding the Biotechnology and BioWork pathway for high school students in Harnett County, please email dualenrollment@cccc.edu.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center