The Bio-Link Career Exploration Web Site Final Report


Yarnall, L., Schank, P., Feng, M., & Harris, C. (2010). The Bio-Link Career Exploration Web Site Final Report. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.


The Bio-Link National Advanced Technology Education Center of Excellence stands at the beginning of a scientific era of exploration that marshals the technological ingenuity of chemistry, physics, information sciences, and artificial intelligence toward the central goal of understanding the molecular systems and interactions that guide all life. The growth in this scientific field is already radically reshaping the technologies and systems of medicine, agriculture, energy, and engineering. As scientific discovery and innovation expand, so too will the need for workers to support these new industries. Although these new jobs fall under the broad heading of “biotechnology,” they represent a diverse range of disciplines and skills. The good news is that there is projected to be strong growth in work—not just for the
scientists and researchers creating this new future, but also for the technicians who will work alongside them. That is the focus of this report and the mission of the Bio-LinkNational Center.

A key challenge facing American workers will be to find their place in this new employment landscape. At present, it is not easy to find one’s way. Few students, parents, or guidance counselors know of the kinds of high-skill technician jobs in the biotechnology industry. Those studying biology in college rarely learn or hear about the hands-on, high-skill work going on in cutting edge biotechnology laboratories. Even the experienced lab technician may find it difficult to determine what new skills and tools are required to shift into emerging biotechnology fields, such as nanotechnology and bio-fuels.

To meet this need, Bio-Link seeks to develop a web-based set of tools and resources designed to track and disseminate information about technician jobs in the biotechnology field. Over the past year, Bio-Link has engaged SRI International to conduct a thorough review of the many career web sites focused on biotechnology careers. This review, documented in several previous presentations and reports(see the
appendices of this report), revealed there is no one-stop place for connecting to and learning about jobs for the biotechnology technician. It also revealed 11 key features that are potentially helpful to serving the prospective audience for the Bio-Link web site. That audience comprises young job seekers in high school and early college, students near or at completion of a community college biotechnology certificate program, and mid-career workers seeking to transition into emerging biotechnology fields.

This report illustrates how web tools can support the particular information needs of these three types of prospective workers in biotechnology technician fields. It includes narrative descriptions of how these specific users might use the features of the proposed Bio-Link web site, tracing each user’s distinct point of entry and information search paths. The report also highlights survey results from an online questionnaire sent to biotechnology deans. The summary provides updated information from deans of 62 community
college biotechnology programs across the U.S. on the biotechnology certificates they offer, the employers hiring their students, and the professional organizations that serve as resources for their programs. The deans’ survey was conducted in July-August 2010. The invitation was sent to 108 schools and 62 schools responded.

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