CCAC offers free education and training for growing number of in-demand STEM careers

Article by: CCAC Public Relations

PITTSBURGH-The Community College of Allegheny County is providing education and training that leads to well-paying jobs in STEM fields-all at no cost to students. The BioMaS (Biotechnology, Math & Sciences) Workforce Collaborative program enables students to earn a Certificate or Associate of Science in Biotechnology, or an Associate of Science in Teacher Education Middle Level Mathematics or Teacher Education Middle Level Science Specialization in preparation for transfer to a four-year institution. Nearly 80 percent of the graduates of the program are successfully entering the workforce or are transferring to four-year universities to earn a bachelor's degree.

To date, the collaborative has served 51 students with scholarships and wrap-around services since the spring of 2016. Nine students have graduated, with four more expected by the end of the summer and three to four more at the end of the fall semester. Several of the graduates have gone on to four-year universities to complete their bachelor's degree, and others have secured positions in the biotechnology field at institutions such as Duquesne University, UPMC Critical Care Medicine, Dermpath Diagnostics and Cook Myosite.

The program is funded by a five-year $629,207 grant from the National Science Foundation for Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM). Under the grant, CCAC picks up the balance after Pell grants have been applied. Therefore, all tuition, fees and books are paid for, whether or not students qualify for a Pell grant. And the fact that the program is free is not the only benefit.

"Our program is very hands on, and our students learn solid lab skills-you usually don't get that in a four-year-school Biology program," said Katherine Mosley-Turner, CCAC student support specialist. "Employers are looking for skilled biotechnologists, and the demand is growing."

Cook MyoSite, a leader in the regenerative medicine industry, has hired seven graduates from the program.

"The BioMaS program was beneficial to me because it supplied me with the support I needed to be successful in a field in which I was unfamiliar," said Tamika Macon, production supervisor at the Cook MyoSite facility in RIDC Park. "I was able to take those tools with me to earn my bachelor's degree and advance in my career."

The BioMaS scholarship covers tuition and fees for up to 65 credits of CCAC credit courses; up to $450 for books in the fall and spring terms and up to $450 for books in the summer term; a paid internship for Biotechnology majors; additional cost-of-attendance items on an as-needed basis; and a monthly bus pass. In addition, students enjoy the following benefits as part of the collaborative: involvement in the BioMaS Learning Community to interact with fellow scholarship students; access to the BioMaS student support specialist to assist with any challenges impacting academic success, internship searches (for Biotech majors) and job searches and preparation; and dedicated tutoring in mathematics and science courses.

The majority of students who transfer to four-year schools typically get hired to work in the academic lab where they did their internship, according to Mosley-Turner. Once they start working for the university, the students have the opportunity to continue to receive a free education until they earn their bachelor's degree, she said.

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must file their FAFSA annually; be enrolled in a minimum of 24 credits in an academic year; maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.80; attend Learning Community meetings; and have satisfactorily completed all developmental courses.

For more information on CCAC's BioMaS Workforce Collaborative program, visit: ccac.edu/BioMaS.

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