As a leading life science industry hub, Wake County and the broader Research Triangle Region has experienced rapid growth in recent years, adding more than 5,900 jobs and $5 billion in planned capital investment since 2020. To ensure that life science companies continue to thrive, the community has made several investments in real estate (which we detailed in an earlier blog), and industry specific workforce development initiatives. Here, we will describe some of the new and existing opportunities in Wake County.
2022 Workforce Forward Bond
Wake County voters approved $353.2 million in bonds in the November 2022 general election to pay for Wake Tech's strategic growth, which is crucial to preparing the skilled workforce the region's growing economy requires.
Bond funds will pay for construction of a 120,000-square-foot facility on the Perry Health Sciences Campus. Additionally, Wake Tech's Western Wake Campus will move from leased space in Cary to a permanent 34-acre campus in southwestern Wake County. Initial construction will include a Workforce Development Center with life science, information technology and industrial training labs to support the dynamic job growth in the region. The site will also include the relocation of business and entrepreneurship programs, University Transfer opportunities and campus operations.
In addition to the passing of the bond in Wake County, this past election also saw massive wins for Durham County’s workforce development. There was a total of $550 million passed for Durham Public Schools, Durham Technical Community College, and for the Museum of Life and Science. The bond for Durham Tech helps facilitate the programs of the new Western Wake Tech Campus and bolsters the partnership between Durham Tech, Wake Tech, and the new RTP Bio collaboration.
RTP Bio, a new collaboration program between Wake Tech and Durham Tech is another exciting addition to the biotechnology industry in the Triangle. The program allows for students of either community college to transfer between the who to attain an associates degree in Biopharmaceutical Technology, Biotechnology (programs of Wake Tech), Clinical Trials Research Associate, Biomedical Equipment Technology, and Biotechnology Biomanufacturing (programs of Durham Tech). RTP Bio also provides shared resources between the two colleges, customized training to support the growing workforce, apprenticeship programs, and opportunities for high school students to delve into the life sciences. The program is based in the Lilly Science and Technology Center in Morrisville.
Lilly Science and Technology Center
The Lilly Science and Technology Center on Wake Tech’s RTP campus will be utilized by local universities to provide students more opportunities in the fields of life and information sciences. The facility is recognition of Eli Lilly’s $1.1 million contribution to Wake Tech’s life science and biotech programs. The center will house 23 smart classrooms with multiple modern science labs. The Lilly center will feature a Microbiology Lab, a Biochemistry Lab, the Lighthouse Aseptic Suite, the Amgen Co-Laboratory, and the new Wake Early College of Information and Biotechnology. The Lilly Science and Technology Center will also be home to Wake Tech’s Business Analytics program which will include courses in analytic theory, data mining, and predictive modeling. This will be a first for any community college in the U.S.
FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies Early College Suite
FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and Wake Technical Community College opened the Early College Suite in RTP in October 2022. This partnership will allow students to pursue dual-enrollment opportunities in biotechnology and information technology that will prepare them for rapidly evolving technological world. The inaugural class has a size of 125 students that are all in 9th and 10th grade. At full capacity the school will have 75 to 100 students per class. The Early College Suite is located on Wake Tech RTP’s campus and is part of the Lilly Science and Technology center. Graduating from the Early College Suite will earn students an Associated Applied Science degree along with their high school diploma. FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies has donated $200,000 to the Wake Tech Foundation’s “Building Tomorrow’s Talent” program, which provides support for high-tech training that will aid these students in their professional careers.
New Wake Tech and NC A&T Partnership.
North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and Wake Tech announced a partnership in October 2022 that will allow NC A&T to use classrooms and office spaces within the Lilly Science and Technology Center. Wake Tech and NC A&T will partner together to develop level I and II apprenticeship programs in Software Engineering, Biotechnologies, Biopharmaceuticals, Bioengineering and more. Both schools also plan to develop co-admission, or dual enrollment programs, to facilitate the transfer of Wake Tech students to North Carolina A&T University.
NC Biotech’s Build Back Better Phase 2 Win.
A coalition of public and private organizations led by NC Biotech won the Build Back Better Regional Challenge Phase 2 award. The $25 million award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration will be used to bolster life science manufacturing throughout the state. The coalition submitted a Phase 2 proposal in March 2022 named, “Accelerate NC – Life Sciences Manufacturing,” which was one of the 21 chosen projects from 60 applications across the nation. The proposal outlined the expansion of training and job opportunities in life science manufacturing through the collaboration of various members and partners that would make a positive economic impact on a 79-county region, with the potential to help all counties in NC. The funding will be used in various areas including workforce diversification, expanding training access and faculty recruitment and community engagement. Novo Nordisk, Amgen and other key industry leaders have matched the funding for these projects.
Workforce diversification will be led by North Carolina Central University’s Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise, which will establish six training hubs. The hubs will be located at the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as UNC-Pembroke, the state’s only Historically American Indian University. These training hubs will provide students biopharmaceutical manufacturing training is often not made available to marginalized communities in the state.
The NC BioBetter project, led by the North Carolina Community College system, will expand training in life science manufacturing by enrolling individuals across the state in programs like BioWork. The training will be developed and delivered by ten community colleges and will expand to rural and distressed communities.