Skilled labor shortages will be addressed at Bio Conference

WORTHINGTON -- A professor will talk about a unique partnership that has developed over the last two years to solve skilled labor shortages in Overland, Kan., during the upcoming Worthington Bio Conference."I don't know a place in the United Stat...

WORTHINGTON - A professor will talk about a unique partnership that has developed over the last two years to solve skilled labor shortages in Overland, Kan., during the upcoming Worthington Bio Conference.
“I don’t know a place in the United States that has what we have,” said Luanne Wolfgram, a professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland.

The partnership includes three entities: a community college, a staffing agency and a biotech company.
Wolfgram will speak at the 12th annual Worthington Bio Conference at noon April 7 at the Worthington Event Center. Her presentation may help many rural communities around the nation that struggle to find skilled laborers, said Abraham Algadi, executive director of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation.
The Overland partnership started when executives from Ceva Biomune, a company that produces animal vaccines, noticed that many of its new employees were former students of Wolfgram.
“They said, ‘We need more people trained by Luanne,’” she said.
Together the executives, a local staffing company, Wolfgram and the community college developed a class (taught by the professor) to help prepare new employees to work at Ceva.
“It’s a unique situation. The staffing agency pays for the training process - not the company - even though the training is specifically for Ceva,” she said. “They put a lot of faith into the training that it will directly benefit the company.”
Wolfgram is teaching her ninth class of 14 students in a laboratory at the community college.
“We are hoping that by doing this training that the problems will go away and keep up retention because they understand more of what they are doing,” Wolfgram said. “The class helps the students know what they are doing and why they are doing it.”
Since Ceva Biomune also operates in Europe, Wolfgram’s students study European Union regulations regarding vaccines and pharmaceuticals in addition to regulations under the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency.
Most importantly the students learn the “aseptic technique.”
The technique is a method designed to prevent contamination. If vaccines are contaminated, the company would lose millions of dollars discarding the vaccines, said Wolfgram.
“Bioscience communities have a hard time finding people who are appropriately trained,” she said.
“By working with people in the company, we can give students what they need to use and some basic information along the way.”
Communities in the nation that are faced with skilled job labor shortages can work with local colleges to find a solution.
“The biggest question is who will come up with the money to pay for it,” Wolfgram said.
Worthington has a similar collaborative in the community, said Algadi.
JBS has partnered with Minnesota West Community and Technical College to offer future and current employees classes at the college to help them learn the skills they need to work in the meat processing factory.
“It’s important for us to grow business and employment in Worthington,” Algadi said, adding that the partnership has been beneficial to the community.
“We hope people in the area will come and participate in the discussion Thursday,” he added.

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