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City of Charlottesville Announces Establishment of Workforce Development Training Program for Laboratory Specialists

July 21, 1999 -- The City of Charlottesville, the Weed and Seed Network, the University of Virginia, and Piedmont Virginia Community College are pleased to announce a collaborative effort in establishing an innovative workforce training program to be located on West Main Street's emerging "Technology Corridor". This program has been designed to teach City residents the highly marketable employment skills of laboratory specialists. This initiative will support the Charlottesville community by providing participants an opportunity for a college-level education and career advancement in a growing area of technology. In turn, this highly trained workforce will provide the workers needed to meet the local employment demands of the City's growing technology sector.

Local high technology businesses currently suffer a critical shortage of laboratory technicians, senior laboratory technicians and laboratory specialists. U.Va. staffs 300 such positions and, as of April 1999, 51 of these positions were vacant. Other Charlottesville-based biotechnology companies such as Argonex and Contravac will also serve as employers to graduating research workers. Virginia Biotechnology Association has stated that, by the year 2010, biotechnology could become an $8 to $10 billion part of Virginia's economy. Laboratory technicians earn salaries ranging from $16,000 to $27,000 per year, and lab specialists are in the $23,000 to $36,000 range.

Charlottesville City Council has taken the leadership role in workforce development by approving grant support in the amount of $163,000 over the next three years. The City's contributions will cover the training facility's operational and start-up expenses including the lease, utilities, building maintenance, custodial cost, renovation work, and classroom and laboratory furniture. In addition, the City's Weed and Seed Network will provide $14,100 for scholarships.

U.Va.'s Office of the Vice President for Research and Public Service has provided $50,000 to cover expenses for instruments and instructional materials. The School of Medicine will donate $15,000 to cover the cost of curriculum development and research internships.

Piedmont Virginia Community College is contributing $50,000 for the lead faculty, administrative support and operational management of the program. Within the City there is a strong interest in supporting both technology growth and upward mobility for area residents, so this new workforce training program will address both community and business needs. The development of this program is a result of the dedication of members of City Council, the University of Virginia (David Kalergis and David L. Brautigan), the Piedmont Virginia Community College (Frank Friedman and Forrest Mckay), and the city of Charlottesville Department of Economic Development (Aubrey V. Watts, Jr. and William H. Harvey).

Six U.Va. Laboratory Specialists assisted in a job analysis using the Work Keys instrument in May 1999. To begin the process of curriculum development this summer and fall, Piedmont Virginia Community College faculty member Patricia Franklin will also develop the curriculum for classroom and clinical instruction. Franklin will also gain hands-on experience by working as a paid intern in David Brautigan's lab at U.Va., and will attend at least one biotechnology conference this summer. The following are program goals to be met over the next three years:

Year 1 - 1999

  • Conduct Work Keys and curriculum development activities for Laboratory Specialists associates-degree program.
  • Conduct benchmarking activities with reference to similar programs.
  • Move the program through the VCCS and state approval system.
  • Develop and begin to implement the marketing and student recruitment plan.
  • Equip the designated facility for teaching and lab space.
  • Identify teaching faculty.
  • Recruit and admit the initial group of program students.

Year 2 - 2000

  • Implement the program and enroll first group of students.
  • Implement marketing and recruitment activities to identify and recruit regional residents.
  • Work with prospective U.Va. and regional employers to initiate plans for the hiring of program graduates.

Year 3 - 2001

  • Begin linking activities between employers and students.
  • Graduate first class of students. The workforce development training facility will be located on West Main Street and is scheduled to begin classes for Laboratory Specialist in Sept. 1999. The fall semester will be a pilot class of 20 students from surrounding City neighborhoods and will accommodate both full-time and part-time students. All sponsors are currently recruiting program participants for the fall classes. Registration is currently underway and prospective students can contact Forrest McKay at Piedmont Virginia Community College, Department of Continuing Education at 961-5351.

Contact: Aubrey V. Watts, Jr. Phone: (804) 970-3110

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Please contact University News Services at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: City of Charlottesville, Office of Economic Development

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