• 04-02-2009 -- National Science Foundation grant to CCAC supports expansion of unique career development program

    Press Release

    PITTSBURGH-The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), a member of the Biotechnology Workforce Collaborative, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM)  for $597,920 over a five-year period, commencing May 1, 2009. The grant will support the expansion of a unique education and career development program that offers local disadvantaged women and veterans the chance to develop occupational skills in the biotechnology and health sciences fields.

    CCAC and other members of the Collaborative will join with program participants to share about the grant at CCAC's regular Board of Trustees meeting at 4 p.m. today in Byers Hall, 808 Ridge Avenue.

    In addition to CCAC, the Collaborative also includes Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), the Allegheny Singer Research Institute (ASRI), the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative (PTEI) and the North Side Leadership Conference. Its goal is to widen the spectrum of available skilled healthcare and biotechnology workers in the region.

    "This funding will enable us to continue and strengthen this effective program, which has a great benefit not only in individuals' lives but also in the economy of our region," said Alex Johnson, Ph.D., CCAC president. "We are thankful for the support the National Science Foundation and our partners have given to this vital initiative."

    The Biotechnology Workforce Collaborative was originally funded by, and continues to receive support from, private funding sources in Pittsburgh.

    "Occupational statistics project a 20 percent growth in the need for skilled biological technicians with an associate's degree in the next 10 years. This Collaborative is one way we are preparing to meet that demand locally, and hopefully it will establish a model for other communities around the country. We are extremely grateful to the National Science Foundation for this grant to expand the program and to those private sector foundations who have also given life to the project through their generosity," said Christopher Post, M.D., Ph.D., president and chief scientific director of Allegheny-Singer Research Institute and a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at AGH.

    The NSF grant will predominantly defray the costs of scholarships to run three staggered cohorts of an average of 17 students per cohort. One cohort will focus on recruiting veterans to become biotechnology or life sciences laboratory technicians while maximizing military skills such as accuracy, precision, teamwork and following protocol and procedures.

    In an effort to increase the number of women in the sciences, specifically advancing knowledge and understanding within the biotechnology field, the other two cohorts will focus on recruiting disadvantaged women residing in the North Side communities of Pittsburgh where CCAC-Allegheny campus and ASRI are located.

    "We have seen a group of neighborhood women who have begun to move from poverty and hopelessness to self-sufficiency and a career in biotechnology," said Allysen Todd, Ph.D., dean of academic affairs at CCAC-Allegheny campus. "Our success has invigorated us to seek a similar opportunity with other groups, and we are thrilled that the NSF has made this possible."

    Program components include:

    • Academic training at CCAC resulting in an associate's degree;
    • College "learning communities" to develop and enhance internal peer support and a closer working relationship with faculty;
    • An internship in the laboratories of ASRI and PTEI;
    • Career development support for individual students starting at the early stages of participant preparation for college work and continuing with assistance for those students upon employment at various research laboratories;
    • Assistance for veterans to transition to the workplace by addressing resume writing, job-search etiquette and interviewing techniques as well as the effects of post-traumatic stress and the navigation of day-to-day domestic life and responsibilities; and
    • Workgroup meetings to further develop and refine the training approach for laboratory technicians.

     "This remarkable program is a great example of four organizations committed exclusively to the well-being and betterment of this community coming together to further achieve that mission. We are truly honored to collaborate with such exceptional institutions in an endeavor that will not only change people's lives through the opportunity of gainful employment and a meaningful career, but also substantially benefit the region's biotechnology industry by increasing its pool of qualified healthcare professionals," said Christopher T. Olivia, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the West Penn Allegheny Health System.

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    About CCAC
    The Community College of Allegheny County is the largest institution of postsecondary higher education in Pennsylvania. The college serves 30,000 credit students through 170 degree and certificate programs and offers thousands of lifelong learning non-credit and workforce development courses to 35,000 students annually. Incorporating a learning-centered environment committed to the future of the region, CCAC continues to expand its reach through innovative programming and accessible instruction offered via convenient day, evening, weekend and online courses. With four campuses and six centers serving Allegheny County and surrounding communities, CCAC endeavors to fulfill its mission to provide affordable access to quality education and offer a dynamic, diverse and supportive learning environment that prepares the region's residents for academic, professional and personal success in our changing global society.

    About AGH and ASRI
    Allegheny General Hospital is a 724-bed academic medical center serving Pittsburgh and the surrounding five-state area. AGH-and its Suburban Campus in nearby Bellevue-annually admits 31,500 patients and logs about 60,000 emergency visits and more than 26,000 surgical procedures. Nearly 1,000 physicians and approximately 4,500 employees share the hospital's commitment to excellence in patient care, medical education and research. A member of the West Penn Allegheny Health System, Allegheny General Hospital is a western Pennsylvania campus for the Philadelphia-based Drexel University College of Medicine; third- and fourth-year medical students receive clinical training at the hospital, Forbes Regional Campus in Monroeville and Allegheny General Hospital - Suburban Campus in Bellevue. Allegheny-Singer Research Institute (ASRI) is a non-profit, independent research institute. As the research component of Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), ASRI's vision is to facilitate the advancement of translational and clinical research in harmony with the clinical strengths of Allegheny General Hospital for improved patient care.