Dallas College has been awarded a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to help underserved communities access living-wage jobs in biotechnology.
The college noted biotech is a sector poised to grow exponentially with the need for additional highly skilled employees in North Texas, according to the latest labor market intelligence.
With approximately $8.8 million in funds allocated to growing the region’s future biotech workforce, the new grant will help put North Texas in the company of other major biotech hubs such as the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill “triangle,” already home to a thriving life sciences industry along the nation’s eastern corridor.
Under terms of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant, Dallas College and partner institutions Collin College, Tarrant County College and University of Texas at Arlington will use the funding to create a regional career pathway model in three areas, biotechnology, biomanufacturing and bioinformatics, while generating new market employment and educational opportunities with the help of an employer-led biotechnology advisory council.
“Dallas College is proud to take the lead role in this new federally funded initiative to help move underemployed and unrepresented populations into living-wage jobs and grow the region’s biotech workforce,” said Dallas College Chancellor Justin Lonon.
“The years of behind-the-scenes work that went into aligning the different partners and interests needed to secure this level of federal investment, from industry to our peers in higher ed, is something that deserves special recognition for the surrounding diverse communities we serve.”
Meeting future needs
With Dallas College serving as the “backbone” organization for this grant, employers already onboard include Children’s Health Medical Center, McKesson, Medical City-HCA Healthcare, Tenet Health, Texas Health Resources, Evolve Biologics and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Together, the seven healthcare employers have committed to hiring a combined total of 1,100 entry-level biotech workers, providing above-living wages of at least $15 an hour as well as health care, retirement and benefits that come with positions such as clinical lab techs and pharmaceutical manufacturing operators, among others.
The initiative, dubbed “Grow the Biotech Workforce in North Texas To Meet Emerging Skill Needs via a Collaborative Partnership,” will also identify additional employer partners in health care and IT, with the help of the DFW Hospital Council, Bio North Texas (BioNTX) and the Dallas Regional Chamber, while networking through Dallas College’s nonprofit employer outreach programs and partnering with economic development corporations throughout North Texas.
This work aims to help advance the burgeoning North Texas life science ecosystem alongside several major workforce and innovation initiatives, including the development of Pegasus Park, the hub for much of the life science activity occurring in the region.
Pegasus Park, in partnership with Lyda Hill Philanthropies, has funded the repurposing of a 25-acre, six-building campus near Dallas Design and Southwestern Medical districts into a center for business, social impact and biomedical innovation.
The park aims to boost local biotech, nonprofit and corporate innovation, with participation from key partners like Dallas College, thanks to this new grant.
Tom Luce, CEO of Biotech Initiatives at Lyda Hill Philanthropies, emphasized that “this grant is a game changer for our region’s bio life sciences workforce and for students who will soon have stronger and more direct pathways into high-paying jobs with opportunities for career growth. Of all jobs in Dallas, only 40% are currently considered ‘good jobs.’ Thanks to this grant, that share will increase and thereby help to strengthen our health care institutions and our region’s economic vitality.”
“Over the next three years, Dallas Fort-Worth is projected to add over 200,000 jobs,” according to Ben Magill, associate vice chancellor of economic opportunity, workforce and advancement at Dallas College.
“And this award will help us establish the critical economic and workforce development infrastructure needed to fill those jobs, increase economic mobility for underserved communities and create additional jobs. This award will be a catalyst. Healthcare and healthcare support occupations are expected to be the fastest-growing industry sector among those jobs, expanding by about 8% or more in the next few years,” said Magill, who also founded Dallas College’s Labor Market Intelligence Center and was the architect of Dallas College’s successful EDA application.
As part of the grant, in the first year, Dallas College will develop a regional analysis of existing education gaps and identify future opportunities for curriculum and program design. The college will also provide outreach to recruit historically underserved populations, implement training programs created by the biotechnology advisory council and provide wraparound services to training participants to ensure successful program completion.
While Dallas College serves as the program lead, Collin College, the University of Texas at Arlington and Tarrant County College will also offer an introductory “boot camp” to train 800 participants for entry-level biotechnology jobs, while building a career pathway model in biotechnology across all education levels to provide future career growth opportunities.
About Dallas College
Dallas College, formerly Dallas County Community College District, was founded in 1965 and consists of seven campuses: Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland.
Dallas College offers online learning and serves more than 125,000 credit and continuing education students annually. Dallas College also offers dual credit for students in partner high schools and early college high schools throughout Dallas County. Based on annual enrollment, it is the largest community college in Texas.
About Pegasus Park
Pegasus Park is a 25-acre, mixed-use office campus consisting of more than 750,000 square feet of office and amenities space across multiple buildings, including an 18-story office tower.
The campus features three anchors of activity: the Tower, featuring a social impact hub, UT Southwestern’s Office for Technology Development, accelerator programs, and corporate and academic innovation teams; biotechnology and life sciences coworking laboratory and office space; and amenities, including a conference center, entertainment/dining venues, gym and green space.