LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On Thursday, April 21, 2011, the Southern California Biomedical Council (SoCalBio) presented its annual Workforce Summit to discuss strategies for expanding life science and medical device industry employment throughout the Greater Los Angeles region. Held at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Summit brought together three groups of stakeholders - bioscience company executives, educators, and representatives of public institutions including workforce investment boards from Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura counties.
Distinguished speakers included Charles Woo, Chair of the LA City Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and CEO of Megatoys; Willie Zuniga, President and CEO of Grifols Biologicals; Wendie Johnston, Ph.D., Director of the Los Angeles/Orange County Biotechnology Center; and A. Stephen Dahms, Ph.D., Vice President of Academic, Industry and Government Relations, SoCalBio. Each discussed the challenges of overcoming the current shortage of skilled labor faced by local bioscience companies in critical areas such as entry-level manufacturing.
“It’s time for a strategic plan with the backing and support of key companies,” said SoCalBio President & CEO Ahmed Enany during his welcome speech. “If you ask entrepreneurs why they’re here in Los Angeles, they say it is because of the quality of the workforce. We want to make sure that we have stable programs in place to maintain such quality for an industry that is changing rapidly.”
Despite the presence of many big and mid-size companies at the event such as Amgen, Gilead Sciences, Celgene, Baxter Bioscience, Neutrogena and Ista Pharmaceuticals, Enany emphasized the importance of representatives from all backgrounds and bioscience industry sub-segments including devices, biopharma and diagnostics. “All participants in this Summit can play a role assisting SoCalBio in its workforce development efforts,” he added.
Charles Woo, Chair of the Los Angeles City Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and CEO of Megatoys, told attendees that the WIB would work hard to ensure the Summit’s effectiveness. “We will take your ideas back to the WIB and act on them to ensure that high-paying biotech and medical device jobs are created and nurtured in Los Angeles,” he said.
The all-day Summit began with morning presentations on best practices for bioscience workforce development from around the country. It also focused on government support for training initiatives, particularly those focused on manufacturing. Speakers included Peter Pellerito, Interim VP, State Government Relations, BIO; Gerard Salinger, Ph.D., Program Director, Advanced Technology Education, National Science Foundation; Reuben Lidster, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Biotechnology, Ivy Tech Community College (Bloomington, IN); Sonia Wallman, Ph.D., Executive Director, NBC2 (Blue Bell, PA); Subhash Karkare, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Biotechnology, Moorpark College (Moorpark, CA); and Kevin Walsh, PsyD, Interim Director, Employee Training Institute, College of the Canyons (Santa Clarita, CA).
Summit participants were later divided into three focus groups for in-depth policy discussions. The first group convened under the leadership of Grifols Biologicals’ President Willie Zuniga, and included biopharma and biotech executives. The second was facilitated by Bill Pratt, VP, Operations, Kinamed, and focused on skilled labor shortages in medical device manufacturing. The last group included IVD and molecular diagnostics firms convened under the leadership of Pankaj Singhal, Ph.D., VP for Product Development, GenMark Dx. The focus group format allowed participants to not only share ideas in an intimate setting, but also make targeted educational policy recommendations for each bioscience industry sub-segment. The goal was to recommend strategies to build public/private partnerships that foster and retain high-paying bio-manufacturing jobs in Southern California.
Sonia Wallman, Ph.D., Executive Director of NBC2, an NSF-supported national bioprocessing technician training program, applauded the Summit’s efforts to bring local colleges, government, and bioscience company executives together in order to forge partnerships that nurture bio-manufacturing skills.
“It is not easy to forge and maintain these partnerships because the three stakeholders move at different speeds and have different reward systems,” Dr. Wallman commented. “But the key to success is working with industry organizations such as SoCalBio that are rooted in the community.”
The Summit concluded with a speech by Larry Frank, Deputy Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, who recognized the partnership among participating WIBs from Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties. He also acknowledged the staff and participants representing various WorkSource centers, such as the Mid-Wilshire Center led by Ms. Gloria Moore, for excellence in the area of “systems-based work”— an effort that Deputy Mayor Frank said has helped numerous Angelinos gain access to employment in the biomedical field and beyond. “Straight from the Mayor’s Office, I thank you for your work,” he added.
The Deputy Mayor also emphasized the importance of sector intermediaries that can match training resources with employment needs in the LA area. Intermediaries – industry organizations responsible for sector analysis, training design, and resource mobilization -- have been used successfully to facilitate training in partnership with the Los Angeles City WIB in sectors such as logistics and healthcare. What is needed now, Frank added, is an intermediary to focus specifically on the bioscience industry.
“It is an exciting moment for the bioscience industry in Southern California," said Los Angeles City WIB Executive Director Greg Irish. "We are at the cusp of launching a true regional initiative for bioscience job training that we hope will make a qualitative difference in nurturing and keeping many rewarding jobs in our region. We look forward to accomplishing this objective in partnership with various stakeholders.”
About the Southern California Biomedical Council (SoCalBio):
SoCalBio is a nonprofit, member-supported trade association that represents the biotech, diagnostics and medical device industries in the Greater Los Angeles region.
SoCalBio's programs help local firms gain access to capital, potential partners and business support services. The annual SoCalBio Investor Conference has grown to become the region's premier showcase for emerging life-science companies and technologies. SoCalBio also promotes technology transfer and workforce training while educating policy makers and the public at-large about the benefits of the life-science industry.
SoCalBio is open to membership by firms and organizations engaged in biotech, medical device technology development and commercialization throughout Los Angeles/Orange Counties, the Gold Coast, and Inland Empire. More information is available at www.socalbio.org.