Professional Development
Ecosystem development / STEM / workforce development

The Delaware life sciences sector gets a workforce boost with 3 new initiatives

A new center, training program and state bill aim to diversify the STEM pipeline in the First State.

Sen. Tom Carper (left) tours the Chemours STEM Hub site, led by EastSide Charter CEO Aaron Bass (second from right) (Holly Quinn/Technical.ly)

This story is a part of Technical.ly’s Future of Work Month. See the full 2024 editorial calendar.

While Delaware has plenty of potential STEM talent to fill the sector’s growing number of jobs, the necessary training hasn’t been accessible to everyone in the state. But that’s changing.

On Friday, The Delaware Life Science Caucus and the Delaware BioScience Association (DelawareBio) announced three initiatives that bring workforce development in these fields to all, with a focus on underserved communities underrepresented in the life sciences.

The reveal took place at the Chemours STEM Hub at the EastSide Charter School, an in-development project made possible in part by a $4 million grant the chemical giant made in 2021 through its ChemFEST school partnership program, where two of the announced initiatives will be located.

The projects came together after a 2022 report by DelawareBio and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership identified the need to invest in the development of a more diverse workforce to ensure future life science industry growth. Ultimately, this led to the appointment of Katie Lakofsky as associate director of bioscience workforce. The position was created and jointly funded by DelawareBio and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute at the University of Delaware.

“One of our fundamental goals is to increase access to these trainings and thereby increase access to these careers,” Lafosky said to the group of STEM professionals, community advocates and government officials (including US Sen. Tom Carper) assembled for the announcement. “Our partnerships with our nonprofit community organizations will be key.”

CEO Aaron Bass of EastSide Charter School, a public charter school that serves 500 high-need K-8 students in Riverside, welcomed the influx of resources heading to the community.

“I do believe that the cure for cancer and AIDS might be within Wilmington,” Bass said, “and the reason we haven’t been able to realize that is because we’ve not provided access to the person that might be able to do that.”

The announced initiatives are:

  • The Delaware Center for Life Science Education and Training. Located at the Chemours STEM Hub, the center will partner with industry, educators and government to address employer needs and meet them through training.
  • A $3 million, three-year pilot program to recruit and train individuals in basic laboratory and biomanufacturing skills. Initial funding for the pilot, which will be launched through the Center of Life Science Education and Training, comes from a $2.1 million Congressionally Directed Spending grant supported by US Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, as well as the state and DelawareBio.
  • The “DE-STAR” Act, or HB 435. Introduced by state Reps. Krista Griffith and Mike Smith and Sen. Spiros Mantzavinos, the bill would create the Delaware STEM Talent Advancement and Retention program to attract and retain new university graduates with Delaware STEM employers by supporting a portion of their college loan payments.

“It’s a small incentive, but it’s one that is going to create cohorts of individuals who go through this program,” said Rep. Griffith about the DE-STAR Act. “We’re showing them that we want them here.”

Construction site inside a building with steel framing, scaffolding, and construction materials such as metal sheets and pipes. Work-in-progress with tools and equipment visible.

Chemours STEM Hub site (Holly Quinn/Technical.ly)

A tour of the Chemours STEM Hub

Attendees also got a first peek at the Chemours STEM Hub, currently under construction by EDiS and expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2025.

While it’s located at EastSide Charter and its students will have STEM classes there, the facility will serve all ages from all schools. It will also have STEM workforce development for adults, including the Delaware Center for Life Science Education and Training, a makerspace, multiple science labs, a robotics lab, an esports area, a recording studio and a TV studio in partnership with DETV.

Information about programming at the Chemours STEM Hub will be available through a partnership with Delaware Libraries.

“When we came up with the idea for [the Center for Life Science Education and Training], access was top of mind,” said Lakofsky. “We wanted to minimize the barrier of transportation. So of course the Chemours STEM Hub at EastSide Charter was an ideal location — it was a partnership made in heaven.”

Companies: Delaware BioScience Association / State of Delaware
Series: Future of Work Month

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