Select biotech students to apply for local grants

By Christian Urrutia, Photo Editor

An agreement between the San Pablo Economic Development Corporation and Bridge to Biotechnology is in final negotiations to financially help qualifying San Pablo residents enroll in the program.

Approved at the company’s September board meeting, the grant assistance would affect only those enrolled in the Bridge to Biotech program within the biological sciences department at Contra Costa College, San Pablo EDC manager Leslay Choy said.

Once enacted, 10 qualified students would then sign up for an account with the college Bookstore in which each student would receive a grant up to $250 for book fees and material lab fees associated with the biotechnology courses.

The grants will be available on a first come, first served basis. The first 10 San Pablo residents to apply and enroll will be eligible. Then, the Bridge to Biotech program coordinator and biotechnology professor Katherine Krolikowski will share that list with the EDC’s coordinator for verification of residency.

Once verified, the accounts will be set up, Choy said.

If there are more than 10 residents, additional applications will be placed on a waiting list in the event someone drops out in the first two weeks.

To enroll in the program and qualify, the student must be a resident of San Pablo and commit to at least two semesters for a certificate of achievement for either laboratory assistant, consisting of 12.5 units, or biotechnology technician, which would be coursework of 17 units.

Choy said plans are being made to have the grant money in place and available sometime between Nov. 12 and 19.

Measure Q, a 2012 ballot measure that increased the sales tax and was proposed originally due to a fiscal emergency in San Pablo, provides the funding for the grant assistance.

The measure is meant to focus on services ensuring public safety, job training and youth programs in San Pablo, Choy said.

Dr. Krolikowski said a department of labor grant, the Design-It, Build-It, Ship-It initiative from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program sponsored Bridge to Biotech’s development.

Bridge to Biotech, a cohort-based program, is only in its second semester and Krolikowski and Choy, through the program, hope to expand job opportunities in San Pablo.

“I know that the San Pablo EDC had an interest in expanding jobs in the city and biotechnology drew interest because it is a growing industry,” Krolikowski said.

Choy said when the EDC was looking at job training programs, they wanted to partner with CCC to build opportunity for local employment for students interested in medical and clinical roles and a quick way to start a career.

“I thought it was a great way for students to use the skills gained from this type of program and translate it into a job,” Choy said.

Pre-science, nursing, technical and transfer students seek employment in lower level lab positions once they complete the Bridge to Biotech program.

Many are urged to pursue advanced degrees for higher paying job possibilities or certified nursing and medical assistant programs.

“We want to get our students ready for these high wage jobs. Those who noticed an interest in science but did not know how to get started now have an entryway for science careers,” Krolikowski said.

Adjunct English professor Ben Jahn, who teaches the English 142B that is part of the cohort program, reveres the personalized and contextual education the biotechnology students are receiving.

“I’m teaching them English with their other courses in mind, personalizing their experience with shared vocabulary from their science classes with readings that pique that same interest,” Jahn said.