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VOL. 127 | NO. 49 | Monday, March 12, 2012

Workforce Development Topic of Bioworks Event

By Aisling Maki

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Memphis Bioworks Business Association will host “Building the Talent Base for Bioscience: Workforce Development Initiatives in the Mid-South,” Thursday, March 15, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The University Club, 1346 Central Ave.

“It’s really focused on the kind of economic development to build this strategic area,” said Regina Whitley, executive director at Memphis Bioworks Business Association. “It’s just critical that we have the skill level.”

Education and early introduction to available opportunities are imperative to building the talent base need to help grow the region’s bioscience industry.

“That’s what we’re hearing is so critical – to really build the interest and career pathways from students in institutions with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) focus, and how to get community colleges building easy access over to the engineering schools,” Whitley said. “The state of Tennessee seems to be doing some good work to ensure the degrees are tying from an associate degree to an engineering degree.”

Whitley said the needs of biosciences – from biomedical to bioagricultural – are diverse, and cross-sector collaboration is a key component to local and regional industry growth.

Memphis Bioworks Business Association, which works to advance the bioscience industry in the Memphis region through education, advocacy and professional networking, hopes to attract representatives from beyond the core bioscience community to Thursday’s luncheon.

“We always get a very good business audience and certainly universities represented, but this has broader implications,” Whitley said. “At our last event, we had a few folks coming over from the Nashville community, so we’re continuing to build interest in Nashville as well.”

The luncheon will feature a welcome and overview from Alisa Malone, deputy commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

A panel discussion will follow, moderated by Pauline Vernon, director of Workforce Development at Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a nonprofit Memphis Bioworks Business Association partner working to facilitate collaboration and accelerate the growth of the region’s bioscience industry.

Panelists for the event include Chip Aiken, senior vice president of energy and sustainability at Buckeye Technologies Inc.; Dr. Eugene C. Eckstein professor and chair of Biomedical Engineering at University of Memphis’ Herff College of Engineering; and Johnel Evans, director of human resources at medical device maker Medtronic Inc.

And rounding out the panel are Dr. Gibson “Sunny” Morris, Arkansas Delta Training & Education Consortium liaison for special projects, office of the president at Mid-South Community College; and Harold Wingood, executive director at Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering.

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