REQUEST: Associate of Applied Science in Biotechnology and Biotechnician Level One Certificate
Program Objectives: A biotechnology training program at ACC is the result of increased demand for trained technicians in the Austin area. The job market is expected to be excellent. The increase in biomedical/ biodevice companies in Austin and the surrounding areas, and the continued growth rate of scientific and medical research in Texas will increase the demand for bioscience technicians. Where once only untrained four-year students were available for employment, now trained, one or two-year students can meet the demands of the bioscience industry.
Program Requirements: The Biotechnology AAS degree will require 64 semester credit hours with a variety of options in the biology area depending on the specialty area or employment tract the student chooses. The student will be prepared to work as a midlevel general technician in a wide variety of biotechnology related laboratories, such as medical, industrial, and academic research, industrial production, quality control, and environmental. The graduates will be able to perform tasks independently and under the supervision of scientists, medical directors, and lab supervisors.
The certificate program will require 33-34 semester credit hours and will consist of courses in chemistry, biology, and biotechnology to provide adequate applied skills and theoretical background for the student. The student will be prepared to work as an entry-level technician in the same variety of laboratories. They will perform basic tasks under the supervision of scientists, lab supervisors, and lab technicians.
With either a certificate or an AAS degree, the graduate will be able to work as a midlevel technician while completing courses for a bachelor's degree or completing requirements for medical, dental, veterinary, or related professional degrees. The courses are designed to transfer to a general academic biotechnology and/or molecular biology curriculum at most universities. Both programs include a 20-hour a week field experience. General education core courses are included to balance the curriculum.
NEED AND POTENTIAL
Occupational Need: Employment of science technicians is expected to increase through the next ten years as scientific and medical research continues to grow in the bioscience/biotechnology area. In particular, it is predicted that the growing number of agricultural and medicinal products developed using biotechnology techniques will increase the need for biological technicians at the bench, in manufacturing, in robotics, and in the areas of bioinformatics and biological computing. In fact, the increasing use of robotics to perform many routine tasks has freed technicians to operate more sophisticated laboratory equipment. Technicians are now making extensive use of computers, computer-interfaced equipment, and high-technology industrial applications such as biological engineering. This trend will continue. Dr. Rita Colwell, the new director of the National Science Foundation, has indicated that one of her top priorities is the funding of projects that promote the development of computer software for the areas of bioinformatics and biological modeling so it is anticipated that even more jobs will open up in these areas.
Employment growth will also be fueled by the demand for technicians to help regulate waste products, collect air, water, and soil samples to measure levels of pollutants, and monitor compliance with environmental regulations. Job opportunities are expected to be very good for qualified graduates of technician training programs or applied science technology programs that are well-trained on equipment used in industrial and government laboratories and production facilities. As instrumentation and techniques become more complex, employers are seeking well-trained individuals with highly developed technical and employability skills.
In addition to positions at the bench, new jobs are opening in the business of companies for two-year people. With knowledge of biotechnology and business practices a two-year person can be employed as a market research analyst or a customer service representative.
Besides new opportunities created by growth, many job openings should arise from the need to replace technicians who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons. Statistics listed the annual average job openings in the state of Texas for science technicians between 1994 and 2005 to be 780. It is obvious that the job possibilities in the bioscience/biotechnology area are expanding at a tremendous rate and into new areas yet to be identified.
Existing Programs: There are four biotechnology-training programs in the state, Collin County Community College District, North Harris Montgomery Community College District, Alamo Community College District, and Texas State Technical College-Sweetwater. There are no Biotechnology programs in the Austin area, and we see no conflict with any of these other programs since they are all located at a distance from this area. Local employer interest in the development of the program indicates a definite need in Austin and the surrounding communities.
Expected Enrollment: Austin Community College predicts an initial enrollment of 20 twenty students for the first year of the program. Extensive marketing has already begun with the production and distribution of brochures among the area high schools, communities, the Austin Chamber of Commerce; the formation of a Biotechnology Club for the students at Austin Community College; and the announcement of BioLINK, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Advance Technology Education grant for bioscience education, specifically biotechnician training. As a result there is tremendous student interest in this program.
Courses: Implementation of the program will require the development of 7 new technical courses, including courses in biotechnology, molecular biology methods and cell culture, and two biotechnology field experiences. The program will also incorporate existing academic courses.
Faculty: Faculty members in the Biology Department at Austin Community College meet workforce guidelines. Linnea Fletcher, Professor of Biology, CYP, will be program coordinator for the program.
Facilities and Equipment: The workforce courses will be taught at the Rio Grande and Eastview Campuses. The facilities are shared with the Biology Department's classes, and adequate equipment needed for the program is already in place at that site. Also, industry has indicated that they can provide some equipment needs. The budget of the Associate Vice President for Workforce Education will support any additional purchases of equipment, furniture, supplies, and the employment of a part-time, biotechnology laboratory assistant.
Estimated Costs and Sources of Funding: See attached chart which outlines the estimated costs and sources of funding for this program.