Newswise — PHILADELPHIA—(August 11, 2016)—The Wistar Institute has been awarded a $199,385 Nontraditional Apprenticeship Grant by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry to explore implementing Wistar’s Biomedical Technician Training Program (BTTP) as a model nontraditional apprenticeship program for the Pennsylvania region.

The grant will support William Wunner, Ph.D., Wistar’s director of Outreach Education and Technology Training, in gathering information to determine how best to expand and develop the BTTP into a registered nontraditional apprenticeship program. In 2000, Dr. Wunner collaborated with Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) faculty of biology and chemistry to establish the BTTP. The program was developed in partnership to reinforce the region’s workforce with experienced lab technicians. Students complete the apprenticeship program over the course of two summers and gain intensive classroom and lab skills that translate to valuable job experience.

“This Nontraditional Apprenticeship Grant lets us explore the full potential of the program with the goal of making it more widely available,” said Dr. Wunner. “We can analyze how to implement, sustain and support a BTTP model for the entire region. For the program to succeed, we need to identify our industry and academic partners and other unique resources, as well as categorize all the different career paths students can take with a BTTP certificate.” Workforce investment in the region is a high priority for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and a major initiative for the PA Department of Labor & Industry. Through technology career development—capitalizing on partnerships across business, industry and education—the region’s workforce will gain the experience needed to obtain high-skilled, high-paying jobs in an established and thriving life sciences sector.

“The BTTP positions students to reach their full potential in our innovation-based economy through a program that offers connections in the life sciences that are coupled with industry experience and classroom training,” said Dario C. Altieri, M.D., president and CEO of The Wistar Institute. “Currently, BTTP provides Community College of Philadelphia students with a career path to today’s diverse and highly skilled STEM workforce. If the BTTP expanded throughout the entire region, it has the potential to have a major positive and long-lasting impact.”

BTTP at a Glance:• The BTTP accepts 12 students each year. Since it began in 2000 and through 2015, 121 students have completed the BTTP.• Between 2001-2015, 56 (46%) of the 121 students from CCP who completed the program found full-time or part-time research assistant (RA) positions within a year of completing the program.• Between 2001-2015, a total of 73 of the 121 graduates (60%) found RA positions, including those who found positions after completing a further degree.• Between 2001-2015, 31 (25%) of the 121 graduates accepted positions at The Wistar Institute.• One graduate completed a Ph.D. and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Temple University’s Fox Chase Cancer Center.• One graduate is a Ph.D. student now in her fourth year at Georgetown University.• Two graduates completed Physician Assistant programs and are Board Certified.

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The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer, immunology, infectious diseases and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the United States, Wistar has held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute since 1972. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible.