NECC program receives highest industry endorsement


January, 2011

Northern Essex Community College’s laboratory science associate degree, which prepares students for biotechnology jobs, has just received the highest endorsement from representatives from the biotechnology industry.

The college’s program was one of eight community college programs to be endorsed by the Massachusetts Life Science Education Consortium (MLSEC) and one of four colleges to receive a gold level endorsement, the highest given.

“We’ve closely reviewed these programs and we’re confident they graduate students with the skills companies are looking for,” said Sara MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Mass Biotechnology Council (MassBio). “If a student graduates from Northern Essex, we have the confidence they have the skills necessary to perform in the biotech environment.”

Launched in the fall of 2009, NECC’s associate of science in laboratory science was designed in response to a need voiced by area employers for skilled lab technicians. A three-year grant totaling more than $311,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education Program helped fund the development of this associate degree program as well as the equipment and educational materials and supplies.

The college sought the advice of regional employers when designing the program which prepares students for careers in environmental sciences and chemical analysis in addition to biotechnology. A lab science advisory board was created consisting of principles from local employers including Adnexus Therapeutics, Andover Water Plant, Archemix Corp, BAL Laboratory, Charm Sciences, LONZA Biologics, Mass Dept. of Environmental Protection, Mass Dept. of Public Health, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals, North Andover Water Treatment Plant, Northeast Laboratory Services, and Pfizer.

“This endorsement is very exciting news for the college,” said Noemi Custodia-Lora, coordinator of the program. “It means that industry recognizes our program as the standard for lab technician education. Best of all, it will result in expanded externship and job opportunities for our students.”

MLSEC is a joint initiative between the MassBioEd Foundation and MassBio and its mission is to promote a coordinated approach to the development of the Massachusetts life sciences workforce through a partnership between the life sciences industry and higher education.

“Biotechnology companies continue to choose to grow or locate to Massachusetts largely because of the talented workforce, and we must work to maintain that competitive edge,” said Robert K. Coughlin, MassBio president and chief executive officer. “The work the MLSEC has done to align community college programs with industry needs is a huge step in the right direction to building the biotechnology workforce of the future.”

The endorsement system—which ranks community college programs that meet levels of criteria as gold or silver—was rolled out at a ceremony in Cambridge on Wednesday, Dec. 8. Speakers included Richard Freeland, Massachusetts commissioner of higher education, Paul Reville, Massachusetts secretary of education, and Joanne Goldstein, Massachusetts secretary of labor and workforce development.