NC Central has received a multi-million dollar federal grant to increase training for jobs in the life sciences industry across the state.
Led by the university's Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE), the program will establish six hubs at six universities in North Carolina.
"This is just a starting point where you will get people trained, and they'll go out and they'll have to come where the jobs are. But our feeling is as these hubs become more successful, and these hubs become sites where you can draw from the community and have trained personnel to be able to enter these fields, then these companies will relocate to these areas," said Dr. Hernan Navarro, Director of BRITE.
The six sites are Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Livingstone University, Saint Augustine University, Winston-Salem State, and UNC-Pembroke.
"People from those communities will be able to take that training, and then enter into the fast-growing biomanufacturing field. One of the areas of importance for this grant is it had to address diversity and also economically-depressed areas," said Navarro.
The $6.2 million grant is from the US Economic Development Administration's Build Back Better Challenge, with Navarro hoping to begin in early 2024.
"We also hope that that these hubs will also be centers for other investments and other initiatives either from the state or the federal government," said Navarro.
Here in the Triangle, the impact of training has been noticeable, often touted by companies who choose to open or grow operations in the area.
"It's really been incredible for our state what life sciences has become," said Mary Beth Thomas, Senior Vice President of Science and Business Development at NC Biotech, which supported the grant.
They report there are 790 life sciences companies operating in North Carolina, employing 70,000 people.
"They create really stable, good-paying jobs with great health benefits and lots of economic mobility if people get trained for these jobs," said Thomas.
Navarro estimates there will be nearly 300 participants across all six sites on an annual basis, who will take online classes prior to a course.
"Companies that are seeking to grow need people to fill jobs. If they don't have a talent pipeline, they don't know how they're going to grow. And when they come, or when they decide to expand here in the state, that's a really significant investment for them," said Thomas.