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Game Changer: THE BACE WORKFORCE As the biotechnology industry continues to grow, so does the need for talent. Since 2006, the University of Florida’s (UF) Biotility has been focused on building a workforce that meets this growing need. To do so, Biotility’s Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam (BACE) encourages high school and college students to pursue careers in biotechnology by validating important technical skills. With the credential, a high school graduate is better positioned to get a job as a biotechnician assistant, often earning well above minimum wage. To date, an estimated 800 high schoolers have received the BACE credential – and the number of students who take the exam grows significantly each year, reaching more than 1,000 this past May. This is good news for Florida, home to the nation’s seventh-largest biotechnology research and development industry, nearly 300 biotechnology establishments and 27,000 employees. Biotility’s Associate Director Tamara Mandell, and Lori Wojciechowski, assistant director of secondary programs, initially developed the exam as a tool to validate mastery of industrial biotechnology program standards in Florida. Recognition by private industry was vital to the adoption of BACE by the Florida Board of Education in 2012. “We had representatives from a variety of industry sectors – medical “Whoever you bring on board at any level, they will require some training,” said Neil Glynn, Ph.D., Syngenta group leader for disease control in biological research and development. “As far as I’m concerned, when we bring students in who already have experience and exposure to equipment and approaches, the training period is a lot less. Our scientists build confidence much quicker in the students’ abilities, so they can delegate sooner and, eventually, assign more elaborate tasks. It allows the scientists to be more productive.” “If we’re deciding between a couple of candidates and one has the certification, we’re certainly going to give a nod to the student who is certified,” added Joseph Wuerffel, Ph.D., Syngenta research and development scientist diagnostics, biopharmaceutical, environmental – review the exam and the questions in terms of rigor and relevance to their company,” said Mandell. Several Florida companies and institutions are already reaping the benefits of a BACE-credentialed workforce, including Syngenta, a global agritechnology company with a laboratory in Vero Beach. florida.HIGH.TECH 2017 73