Gearing up for biotech industry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

With the start of the 2007 spring semester, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC) began offering courses in a new degree program in biotechnology. The associate degree program will prepare students for careers as biotech research assistants, laboratory technicians, quality control specialists and biotech product sales representatives.

The college is offering the biotechnology program in collaboration with Gaston College and Forsyth Technical Community College. Students can take most of the courses in the two-year program at RCCC and complete the requirements at either Gaston College or Forsyth Tech. RCCC plans to offer all of the program courses when its biotechnology teaching facility on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis opens in late 2008.

The associate’s degree program in biotechnology emphasizes course work in biology, chemistry, laboratory techniques, mathematics and cooperative work experience.

“North Carolina has more than 200 biotechnology and bioscience companies, each with a growing need for educated and well-trained employees,” said Dr. Ed Otto, RCCC’s director of biotechnology. “State officials predict the biotechnology industry in North Carolina will grow 10-15 percent a year, spurring the need for at least 125,000 skilled biotechnology workers by 2025. It’s also anticipated the North Carolina Research Campus will bring many biotech jobs to this region. RCCC is working to help meet this workforce need.”

Rowan-Cabarrus’ new associate degree program in biotechnology joins two other biotech programs offered by the college. Students in RCCC’s associate degree program in industrial engineering technology can choose a biotech option. This biotech concentration will prepare students for bioprocess, specialized manufacturing and facilities management positions.

Students also can complete the BioWork course offered through RCCC’s Continuing Education division. The BioWork course gives students a broad overview of the biotech industry and prepares them for entry-level bio-manufacturing jobs.

“The biotech industry will offer North Carolinians well-paying career opportunities for years to come. RCCC is working to prepare students for these 21st century opportunities. The college will continue to serve the residents of Rowan and Cabarrus counties by developing and offering more biotech programs in the future,” Otto said.

College officials are considering other biotechnology-related associate degrees in bioprocessing and agricultural biotechnology.

Individuals interested in biotechnology degree programs at RCCC should contact Otto. Persons with questions about the BioWork course should talk with Ann Morris. Both Morris and Otto can be reached at 704-637-0760.