News & Updates

Partnerships among training programs and employers connect job-seekers with metro Boston's growing life sciences industry

Sep 23, 2016

Over 500 people have benefited from an initiative to help unemployed and underemployed metro Boston residents launch careers in the thriving life sciences industry, according to a report released today by the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) and the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development (OWD). The Skilled Careers in Life Sciences (SCILS) Initiative, a four-year comprehensive effort concluding this month, helped over 85 percent of training graduates in its first three years gain new employment in the healthcare and biotechnology sectors.
“Massachusetts has invested successfully in the life sciences industry, and the federally-funded SCILS Initiative has provided the training and the connections necessary for Boston area residents to participate in the growth of this new economy, as well as our world-renowned healthcare sector,” said Neil Sullivan, Executive Director of the PIC, which co-led the initiative with the OWD.
"The SCILS Initiative builds on our recent research that shows healthcare is a particularly promising sector for career advancement and quality jobs," said OWD Director Trinh Nguyen. "This initiative provides a successful model for connecting job seekers to the kinds of career ladders that can make a lasting difference in their lives."
With the support of a $5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant and over $3 million in leveraged funds, the SCILS Initiative provided adult participants with scholarships, internship placements, career coaching, and networking opportunities in the life sciences. The initiative's network of colleges and training programs delivered these services in innovative ways. UMass-Boston's Venture Development Center, for example, developed a new online course to teach students how to access jobs in the evolving landscape of life sciences startups. Boston University capitalized on SCILS funding to create its BioScience Academy, an accelerated Applied Biotechnology certificate program with an emphasis on job placement in the life sciences.
As a result of the initiative, the local life sciences labor market has seen a much-needed infusion of skilled workers. More than 225 local employers have employed SCILS participants in full-time and internship positions. The most common jobs filled by graduates of the initiative's degree and certificate training programs were: manufacturing technicians, research associates, quality control technicians, medical laboratory technicians, surgical technicians, and clinical research assistants. These occupations typically pay anywhere from $35,000 – $66,000 annually.
Salasse Keffous, an Algerian immigrant featured in the report, is one of many participants who benefited from the SCILS Initiative. A former parking attendant, Keffous completed his associate's degree in Biomedical Engineering Technology with the help of a $4,000 SCILS scholarship. He now works as a biomedical equipment technician for GE.
In addition to its training and educational services, the initiative also convened a quarterly consortium of employers, training programs, and career centers to share information on staffing and skills needs in the life sciences. These needs are only projected to grow. Over 4,000 job openings in the state's life sciences industry are estimated to need filling by May 2018. In the year 2015 alone, Massachusetts biopharmaceutical job listings increased by 35 percent.
Looking forward, the SCILS report recommends continuing the work of the consortium through ongoing dialogue among stakeholders in the life sciences workforce. The report also notes that a solution is needed to address the backlog of prospective laboratory professionals awaiting clinical rotations necessary to graduate from their programs. The creation of an online clearinghouse of available rotations at local laboratories is one potential solution posited by the report.
As part of the report's release, a SCILS Initiative wrap-up celebration at MassBioEd Foundation today includes remarks by Lauren Jones, Director of Business Strategy for the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, and a panel discussion on the future of life sciences training and employment in the Commonwealth. The panel features Peter Abair, Executive Director of MassBioEd Foundation; John Finch, Deputy Director of Administration & Finance at MassBiologics; Sean Hemingway, Head of Product Operations & Network Excellence at Shire; and Travis McCready, President & CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. 
SCILS Initiative partners include Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Bunker Hill Community College, Quincy College, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, and the Just-A-Start Biomedical Careers Program.
The SCILS Report can be found online at:
About the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development
The Mayor's Office of Workforce Development (OWD) is an innovative agency within the Boston Redevelopment Authority that seeks to ensure the full participation of all Boston residents in the city's economic vitality and future. The OWD funds and oversees programs that promote workforce development through education, jobs training, apprenticeships, financial coaching, career pathways, literacy initiatives, and the like. Please visit OWD.Boston.Gov to learn more about the OWD's work.

About the Boston Private Industry Council
The Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) is the city’s Workforce Development Board and school-to-career intermediary. The PIC brings together employers, educators, and workforce organizations, often by industry sector, to help advance the agenda for education and workforce preparation. Please visit to learn more about the PIC’s work.

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