by Denise Foley
In June 2012, faculty from the Biology Departments at Santiago Canyon College, Santa Ana College, and Fullerton College met with local industry professionals and the state deputy sector navigator for biotechnology for the first time. We obtained information regarding the need for skilled employees in this fast growing area of our economy. At the time, no regional Community College was specifically training students to enter this field. Further research and preparation led SCC to offer the first course in biotechnology in 2013.
OC BioTech Education
We then formed a collaboration between the colleges and are collectively branded as the OC Biotech Education Partnership (www.ocbiotecheducation.org). Since then, SCC obtained funding from various sources, totaling over $878,000 to purchase high-tech, industry-grade equipment, pay instructors to run courses, develop outreach materials, and become involved in a dynamic collaboration with our colleagues at the other colleges, which now also includes Irvine Valley College. Our collaboration has allowed us to tackle projects and obtain funding streams not possible for individual colleges. Plus, having like-minded colleagues to work with is always a great benefit!
Training for Employment in the Life Science Industry
The biotechnology program at Santiago Canyon College focuses on training students for entry-level employment in the vibrant Life Science industry and other related industries in Orange County and beyond. The entry level jobs pay significantly better than minimum wage - $17-$31 hour, with an average wage for the entire industry in Orange County of $86K. Clearly, training students to enter this important Orange County industry, even while pursuing further education, can allow them to provide for themselves in this expensive region of the state.
If you had not heard of biotechnology before we began to promote our program, you are not alone. Our biggest issue seems to be that the field is a well-kept secret locally—but one we don't want to keep! Science-minded students need to know about this opportunity on their doorstep. There are over 1,300 firms identifying as life-science (AKA biotechnology) in the OC. In California, the Life Science Industry employs over 300,000 people with over 48,000 of those life-science related jobs residing in Orange County. This does not even include other industries where the skills will transfer (like the food industry). Furthermore, the biotechnology industry in the OC generates 33 billion in economic output. Obviously, this is an important component of our local economy and if we do our job well, our students will have many opportunities for employment.
B.S. in Biomanufacturing
Finally, it is important to note that as of Fall 2017, two Community Colleges, Solano (near Napa) and Mira Costa (Oceanside), started offering a B.S. in Bio manufacturing. Students completing our biotechnology certificates and A.S. degree are well prepared to transfer into this low-cost bachelor degree program. According to the State Chancellor's office, the entire degree, from start to finish has an average total cost of $10,500. So far, SCC and SAC have sent 3 students to Mira Costa. They had very little additional work required to gain admission into the cohorts. An associate degree for transfer into these B.S. degree programs is in the works and, when available, SCC will make minor modifications to our curriculum to meet the requirements.
Help us spread the word about the opportunities surrounding biotechnology! You can learn more at
First Page < >