Oregon’s BioCatalyst program launches with $325,000 in financial backing from the 2014 Oregon Legislature and Business Oregon

Industry-forward professional training program responds to industry talent need.

CONTACT: Dennis McNannay, executive director, Oregon Bio, 503-501-9401
Dianne Danowski Smith, Oregon Bio Board member, 503-201-7019

(Portland, Ore.) – The third cohort has just started. Last week, in a conference room at Welch Allyn in Beaverton, 38 mid-career professionals began spinning up on the brand new BioCatalyst Professional Certificate program, the first of its kind in Oregon. These participants, enrolled in the Medical Device Foundations Certificate track or the Quality Assurance Certificate track, follow the 26 graduates before them. The program soft-launched in October, 2014.

“We heard loud and clear from the industry, our members and Oregon policymakers that applied STEM training was long overdue, so that’s how and why we proposed this professional certification program,” said Oregon Bio’s Executive Director Dennis McNannay.“ He added the BioCatalyst program is tailored to unemployed and underemployed management professionals.

One of the first BioCatalyst certificate graduates, Robert Wilmington, a former employee at Welch Allyn, said, “I have been working in the medical device industry and found this program to be an excellent refresher course in addition to the new material. The instructors throughout the certification process included individuals highly knowledgeable in their areas of expertise and recognized among their peers. Instructors delivered course work designed to rapidly build knowledge, achieve understanding of this sector’s unique requirements, as well as supply materials for attendees to perform hands-on exercises in class and use as reference materials at their work place.”

In 2014, Business Oregon, in partnership with Oregon Bio, received an appropriation from the legislature to offer bioscience specific professional training to under/unemployed Oregonians hoping align themselves with the specific skills requires in the bioscience industry. The objective of the resulting BioCatalyst program is to prepare qualified, mid-career candidates to earn sector-specific bioscience industry certificates to facilitate this employment transition. The courses are offered at no cost to qualified candidates accepted into the program.

Oregon’s biotech growth trajectory continues. The most recent study– published in 2014 by BIO and The Battelle Institute – shows (from 2012 data) that the average wage for biotechnology and life sciences workers is $62,538 (compared to the Oregon statewide wage of $43,685). Total employment impact of Oregon’s bioscience industry is 56,552.

Bioscience.employment.growth.2001to2011From 2001-2011, BIO/Battelle’a annual study showed Oregon’s employment growth rate at 30.6 percent, outpacing Massachusetts, California and Texas. The U.S. economy retracted by 2.9 percent in the same time frame.

“BioCatalyst is an innovative training and workforce development program because industry is fully involved in the creation and the vetting of the curriculum to create these applied STEM modules in a two-week immersion format,” said industry expert Erin Birmingham, principle staffing consultant for Genentech, Inc. “It has been designed to augment the existing skills of un- or under-employed Oregonians for re-employment in the bioscience or advanced manufacturing industries. Hiring of these upskilled professionals creates an employment multiplier effect within each hiring company as new project and product development activity stimulates additional growth and hiring of production workers. Historically, these highly skilled employees have been more difficult to identify and locate, so they have been recruited from out of state. This new program will help enlarge the workforce to meeting the growing industry demand.”

Both McNannay and Julie Black, director of Member Service and Business Development for the Oregon Bioscience Association, agree this is an industry-driven response to a growing marketplace need. Four additional tracks are included in the BioCatalyst program. They are Manufacturing, Medical Software, Circuit Board Foundations and Pharma Foundations.

Black adds coordinates the instruction, planning and enrollment for the BioCatalyst Professional Certificate program. “Oregon’s bioscience industry has grown strongly over the last ten years. In fact, to the surprise of many, Oregon’s bioscience employment growth has outpaced several states with respected histories in the bioscience industry. To augment the industry’s workforce development needs, over the last four years Oregon Bio developed the BioPro and BioBridge workforce training programs. Jointly, these programs have successfully trained more than 1,600 Oregon bioscience workers and attracted the participation of most leading Oregon bioscience companies.”

BusinessOregon is the key sponsor of this new program, appropriating $325,000 to fund this statewide certificate program.

The current BioCatalyst curriculum, Medical Device Foundations, comprises 10 specific classes on the topics of Failure Mode and Effects Analysis; Business Communication Fundamentals; Impromptu Presenting; Overview of FDA; Design Controls for Medical Devices; Quality Systems Overview; Preparing for Inspections in Regulated Industries; Practical Data Analysis; Statistical Process Control; and Project Management.

Said program graduate Laura Kubisiak, a sales executive with Market Connexions LLC, “As a senior-level manager, the Biocatalyst program gave me a great overview of what happens behind-the-scenes to deliver a product to market.”


Meet many of the 26 graduates and 35 current BioCatalyst certificate participants; and leaders of some of Oregon’s largest medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, including TE Connectivity-Medical, Biotronik and Genentech, Inc. at the BioCatalyst Job Fair on Friday, January 16 at 4 p.m. at Biotronik in Lake Oswego.


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