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Science Center scored a federal STEM grant to expand its BULB training program

The program, which trains participants in the skills most sought by local science and tech employers, was one of seven funded across the country.

A University City Science Center lab. (Courtesy photo)

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced this week that seven STEM-focused institutions, including Philly’s University City Science Center, are the recipients of federal funding to boost science, tech, engineering and math training in their respective regions.

The EDA’s inaugural STEM Talent Challenge launched last August and aims to further build STEM workforce readiness and innovation across the country. The federal agency awarded $2 million in grants across the seven institutions, and local private and public sector sources matched funding for each.

The Science Center’s grant was designated for its Building an Understanding of Lab Basics (BULB), a free, two-week, virtual lab skills training program that launched last summer, Director of Marketing Kristen Fitch told Technical.ly.

The program was built with insight from STEM industry leaders about the skills and positions they’re currently looking for, as Phil Brooks, director of STEM workforce development, explained at its launch. The virtual training will allow participants to gain skills currently sought by local science and tech employers, and get folks into life- and family-sustaining careers.

“It took some time to assess the workforce needs of local companies but we have a program we are confident will support with the building of specific skills desired in a lab environment,” Brooks said.

BULB ran a pilot with 12 participants in July, and a second cohort with 10 participants in November. The $246,179 EDA grant to the Science Center will be matched by either a local funder or the Science Center for a total of $492,358. The funding will support the expansion of the BULB program for the next two years, and an additional six cohorts of trainees.

The project will train about 72 participants for primarily work in the cell and gene therapy industry, and will likely result in 10 to 20 apprenticeship placements with life sciences employer partners, Fitch said. The funding will also help provide a mix of virtual and on-the-job training for biotech careers and scale the program to fit the industry’s current needs.

Interested applicants must be Philadelphia residents at least 18 years old, with a high school diploma or GED, an interest in STEM, with access to a computer and internet, and knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

“Strong STEM talent fuels innovation and entrepreneurship in regional innovation economies across America,” said Dana Gartzke, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, in a statement. “This grant challenge invests in workers through work-and-learn programs and apprenticeships, and these individuals become the backbone of robust innovative and entrepreneurial economies.”

The program’s six other grants will go toward work in:

  • Aeronautics at the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government in St. Paul Island, Alaska
  • Space commerce research at Expanding Frontiers in Brownsville, Texas
  • Cybersecurity and IT programs at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland
  • Renewable energy, artificial intelligence and machine learning programs at the Maui Economic Development Board in Kihei, Hawaii
  • Digital manufacturing and smart factories at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio
  • Advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

You can read more about each program on the EDA’s website.

Companies: University City Science Center
People: Kristen Fitch

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