Life Sciences Workforce Initiative Launched for Boston Residents

At the opening of the BIO International Convention, the world's largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, Mayor Michelle Wu today announced a new City workforce initiative to train and employ Boston residents in life sciences careers. With recent industry reports from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) and Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd) highlighting continued job growth in the industry, Mayor Wu announced her goal to help 1,000 Boston residents get trained and hired into the industry by the end of 2025. Mayor Wu also announced the release of an initial grant application round of $4 million to support the goal, funded through the City's Neighborhood Jobs Trust (NJT) and the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP).

Mayor Wu was joined by Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Lauren Jones, Vertex CEO Reshma Kewalramani, MassBio President and CEO Kendalle Burlin O'Connell, Gerald Chertavian, founder and CEO of Year Up, Gaelle Akaliza, a Year Up alum who now works as a Coordinator in Quality Assurance at Vertex, and other leaders in life sciences and workforce development.

"Throughout the course of history, Boston has been home for big ideas that can change the world. From democracy to education, human rights to health care, we continue to lead the way as the best place to raise a family and shape the future. As Mayor, my goal is to make Boston the best place in the world to start and grow a life sciences company—to bring even more life-saving innovations and opportunities to life," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "With tremendous support from industry, training providers, and higher education partners, this initiative will change the way companies hire in our region by connecting them with the talented workforce that lives in our neighborhoods."

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"Through this initiative, the City is engaging employers, training providers, and the community to solve the labor shortages facing the life sciences sector and connect more Boston residents to training and careers in the industry," said Trinh Nguyen, Chief of Worker Empowerment. "We are tremendously excited by the promise this holds for our community."

The City funding will prioritize training programs that secure internship and hiring commitments from life sciences companies, train for specific in-demand industry positions, and support residents without four-year degrees, including workers of color, women and immigrants, who are underrepresented in the industry today. The grant round will also establish an intermediary organization to provide additional support to workers, training providers, and employers, in the hope of making inclusive employment pathways a permanent fixture of the regional industry.

The announcement comes as the City and State deepen their partnership to ensure workforce opportunities in the sector.

"The Healey-Driscoll Administration applauds the City of Boston for making this significant investment, identifying meaningful career pathway opportunities, and engaging with biotech leaders to understand the hiring needs," said Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Lauren Jones. "As Boston prepares to host BIO International, Massachusetts continues to signal to the world that we are open for business, and we look forward to lifting up partnerships to demonstrate our commitment to building a diverse workforce for the life sciences in the Commonwealth."

Vertex Pharmaceuticals CEO Reshma Kewalramani has prioritized developing career pathways at the Boston-based company. Vice President for External and Community Affairs Stacia Reidy MacNaught served on the team that formed the City's Life Sciences Workforce Initiative.

"Establishing innovative pathways into the life sciences are a win-win-win for potential employees, the City, and the biotech industry," said Vertex CEO Reshma Kewalramani. "Our industry is growing rapidly and relies on access to skilled talent to advance the incredible scientific innovation taking place here. We commend this new workforce initiative to train and employ Boston residents to meet this vital need."

MassBio represents more than 1,600 members in the state's global life sciences hub. Under Burlin O'Connell's leadership, MassBio recently announced the creation of a new nonprofit, "Bioversity," to expand training opportunities in Boston and beyond, including a workforce training center in Dorchester with a focus on hands-on learning for people with a high school diploma. Zach Stanley, Executive Director of Bioversity, also served on the team that formed the City's Life Sciences Workforce Initiative.

"To keep the Massachusetts life sciences industry in its leadership position, we must grow the pipeline of skilled workers that employers need, especially in the biotech hubs of Boston and Cambridge," said MassBio President and CEO Kendalle Burlin O'Connell. "We applaud Mayor Wu and the City of Boston for making this funding available to help train Boston residents into well-compensated jobs in our sector and help us further develop a workforce that reflects the patient community we serve."

As part of the launch, the City also announced that The American City Coalition (TACC), LabCentral Ignite, and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd), will be funded partners in a campaign to increase community awareness of the life sciences industry and its career opportunities in Boston neighborhoods.

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The American City Coalition (TACC) launched Roxbury Worx last year under the leadership of President & CEO Rev. Willie Bodrick, II. Roxbury Worx is a workforce development initiative that brings hidden and middle-skills workers into the talent pipeline in the life sciences and biotech, healthcare, and green and blue tech industries by developing a Roxbury-focused workforce development model that is responsive to resident-identified barriers to accessing meaningful jobs.

"TACC, through Roxbury Worx, is committed to working collaboratively with LabCentral Ignite, the City of Boston, and other partners to build awareness of career pathways in the life sciences and biotech sector in order to ensure Black and brown residents are aware of the opportunity and how to access meaningful jobs," said President & CEO of TACC Rev. Willie Bodrick, II. "Our vision for sustaining Boston's position as a global leader in this sector prioritizes the shared prosperity of Black and brown residents. We thank Mayor Wu and her administration for their commitment and investment in career awareness so that all Bostonians are aware of the opportunity and viable on-ramps into meaningful jobs in the life sciences and biotech sector."

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation's (MassBioEd) mission is to build a sustainable life sciences workforce in the region. Working with leading life science employers, MassBioEd has designed three apprenticeships – one for Biomanufacturing Technicians, one for Laboratory Support Specialists and one for Clinical Trial Associates – that enable individuals to quickly transition into employment that provides meaningful work, family-sustaining wages, and career growth.

"The life sciences industry continues to grow in Boston and across the Commonwealth, and the need for skilled talent is greater than ever. Yet at the same time, thousands of capable individuals, who have the potential to add meaningfully to the lifesaving work underway in the life sciences, are left out of these jobs because of a lack of awareness about existing opportunities or for not holding traditional college degrees," said Sunny Schwartz, CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation. "We are tremendously grateful to Mayor Michelle Wu and the City of Boston for entrusting us to raise awareness of the wide array of jobs in the life sciences field for Boston residents through our new Life Sciences Career Hub."

The City's Life Sciences Workforce Initiative, developed with support from the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, is focused on maintaining the City's position as a global hub for life sciences by ensuring that residents are trained for thousands of unfilled jobs in the industry.

"Local economies are stronger if they are built on a foundation of economic justice. The Wu administration is leading the way by showing that inclusion and growth go hand in hand," said Dr. Jorrit de Jong, Director of the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University. "It's exciting to see how Boston, a global hub for the biotech industry, takes a collaborative approach to diversifying a rapidly growing workforce in the life sciences industry. Mayor Wu and her team are successfully bringing higher education, businesses, neighborhood organizations, and industry groups together. Having worked with dozens of cities on cross-sector collaboration through the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, we know how hard it is. We are thrilled to see how much progress Boston has made in very little time."

Interested organizations can apply for grant funding here.

Filed Under: Government, City

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