Stanislaus County's Alliance Worknet was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to train workers in biotechnology, a sector that economic development specialists hope will become a major industry in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
The $238,434 grant will be used to attract new biotech companies to the region and support expansion of current businesses, said Jeff Rowe, director of the Alliance Worknet. It will serve Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties in a partnership with the Valley Bio and Science Coalition, and the San Joaquin Biotechnology Center.
"A significant number of biotech- related jobs already exist in the region, most of them in agricultural, food processing and medical laboratories," Rowe said.
Biotechnology is a science that uses living organisms to make or modify products. It is most commonly used in health care, crop production and other agricultural applications, environmental and industrial operations, such as those that make biofuels or vegetable oil.
A handful of educational and training programs in the region specialize in biotechnology, including Enochs High School in Modesto, Tracy High School, Merced Community College and the University of California at Merced.
Rowe said the grant will be used to analyze those programs for their ability to prepare residents with the skills necessary to work in the biotech sector. Then, a plan will be developed to tailor educational and training programs to support the expansion of biotechnology companies.
It also will identify the types of biotech industries that are most likely to relocate to the Northern San Joaquin Valley, he said.
"This region is focused on preparing workers for careers in the growing biotechnology sector," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Brent R. Orrell. "The grant will support the development of strategies to ensure that workers will be able to access the training necessary to compete for these jobs."
Regional innovation grants are awarded from National Emergency Grant funds to assist state and local work force agencies develop plans to meet future employment demands.
Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at email@example.com or 238-4574.