Career Move: Biosafety Training

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 @ 05:03 PM gHale


In an effort to reduce accidents and exposure to biological and chemical agents, a biosafety training center is now in the works. The center will train, graduate and place biosafety technicians in jobs within one year.

The center is a collaborative workforce educational program between the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and Houston Community College (HCC) Coleman College for Health Sciences and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program in Houston. Potential students will include disabled veterans identified by the Houston Veterans Administration.

“There are currently no similar biosafety workforce development programs in the region,” said Kathleen Becan-McBride, Ph.D., director of the Office of Community Outreach and Education at UTHealth. “This program will provide important training needed to fulfill the growing need of technicians in this field.” Becan-McBride will also serve as the director of the new training program.

The increased need for biosafety technicians is due to the National Institutes of Health’s increased emphasis on biosafety to reduce accidents and exposure to biological and chemical agents, Becan-McBride said.

The training program includes hands-on experience working with biosafety specialists at UTHealth.

“Students will work side-by-side with our biosafety specialists to learn the proper techniques for the safe handling of biological agents in research, clinical and production settings,” said Robert Emery, DrPH, associate professor and vice president of safety, health, environment and risk management at UTHealth. He will also serve as co-director of the training program.

There are at least 79,500 specialized biological-related jobs in the United States and the need for these positions should grow 17 percent by 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is a growing need for biosafety technicians in health care institutions, research facilities, pharmaceutical industries and petrochemical industries, Becan-McBride said.

The Texas Workforce Commission awarded the $500,000 workforce development grant.

Structured as a 29-credit-hour certificate program, students will have the opportunity to learn about current laboratory techniques used in biological research and development and to develop skills in protocol and regulation reviews, environmental monitoring techniques and emergency response. Coursework will also include aspects related to the recognition of chemical and bioterrorism risks.

Along with veterans, the program is open to students currently enrolled at HCC campuses. Students will take general curriculum courses at HCC and the biosafety lecture and laboratory courses at UTHealth. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in an internship with a local company, health care or research facility during their last semester.

The first class will begin this fall.



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