New associate degree developed to fill local growing demand
Virginia Western Community College is launching a new degree program in response to a fast-growing industry in the region. Beginning with the fall 2023 semester, students will be able to complete a two-year degree in biotechnology and begin to build a pipeline of qualified workers.
“We’re really building a spectrum of opportunities for our STEM students,” said Amy White, Dean of the College’s School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. “Adding this program creates another pathway to a solid, lucrative industry that keeps our students here locally and gives them the skills to be successful wherever they land.”
Biotechnology classes and a career studies certificate are currently available at Virginia Western. With an associate degree in biotechnology, students can either transfer to a four-year school or they will be job-ready for entry-level laboratory positions, which typically pay $24 an hour.
Biotechnology jobs are available across many industries including pharmaceutical, environmental, breweries, agriculture and research and development. The biotechnology field is growing so rapidly, more industries will likely be job feeders in the next decade.
“Our goal with this program is to prepare students with the right skillset so that they can be successful and fill the jobs that don’t even exist today,” White said. “We’re essentially putting together the ecosystem by supporting innovation and entrepreneurship and growing the industry as a whole.”
The goal is to have 12 students in the program the first year. Maintaining smaller class sizes for biotechnology is ideal due to the hands-on laboratory work required. Biology professor Heather Lindberg is the new head of the biotechnology degree program.
Virginia Western is currently reaching out to local K-12 teachers to make them aware of biotechnology learning opportunities at the College in order to build interest in the upcoming degree program.
“We are committed to creating a pathway for students and making sure they are getting an early exposure to the educational programs and the career opportunities right here in our area,” Lindberg said.
This summer, teachers are invited to STAT 22, a program on campus designed to advance their knowledge of biotechnology so they can then incorporate biotechnology into their STEM curriculum and introduce elementary and secondary students to biotechnology learning and career opportunities. The event is free to teachers, and they can earn professional development credits. Contact Heather Lindberg at [email protected] for more information.