By Julius Sokenu
Ventura County Community College District colleges do an excellent job of preparing students for rewarding careers that meet our local industry workforce needs. Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges each actively work with the advisory boards of our Career Education programs to address ever-changing industry requirements so students can graduate with a relevant associate degree and start their career or transfer to a four-year college or university.
Moorpark College’s workforce partners informed us that the local biotech industry had an unfulfilled demand for well-trained staff on their production teams. We were quick to propose a solution to meet this growing workforce demand and allow the local biotech industry to flourish and grow: Moorpark College’s new Bachelor of Science degree in biomanufacturing.
As background, in 2014 then-Governor Jerry Brown authorized the California Community Colleges Board of Governors to establish a statewide baccalaureate degree pilot program. In 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized the Board of Governors to expand and extend the degree pilot program indefinitely, launching up to 30 baccalaureate degree programs annually.
Moorpark College’s biomanufacturing bachelor’s is part of the baccalaureate degree program expansion. Ventura College and Oxnard College are also exploring baccalaureate programs to meet student and Ventura County industry needs.
Our program is in addition to the successful biotech associate degree offered at our campus and ideal for students who want to continue their skill mastery and stay local.
The program is also about equity.
Moorpark College is a Hispanic-serving Institution, and this bachelor’s degree will help diversify our local workforce by removing barriers and offering opportunities for low-income and minority individuals, women and recent immigrants. It will provide access to careers that build wealth — not just a living wage — and salaries that lift students out of poverty into solid middle-class professional jobs.
Annual regional job growth in the biotech industry is estimated at 8.1%. The median annual salary comparison in Ventura/L.A. County for students with an associate degree in biotech can be as high as $52,000 and up to $84,000 with a bachelor’s degree in biomanufacturing.
Moorpark College’s associate degree in biotech program has already closed the equity gap between white and Latinx students; the gap has narrowed for black students when compared to other disciplines.
This exciting new four-year degree is targeted to begin accepting students for the fall 2024 semester and is the first of its kind in Ventura County. It was developed in consultation with CSU and UC faculty to assure there would be no duplication or competition and that the Moorpark College degree would be unique in our region. However, the CSU Faculty Senate is now raising concerns over our program being duplicative.
This is unfounded, as university degrees in biomanufacturing focus on the biology and chemistry of the product and its mechanisms of action. Our bachelor’s degree will focus on process understanding and how companies can manufacture a product of sufficient and consistent quality. Our graduates can obtain positions as manufacturing associates, quality technicians and quality control managers.
Employer support for developing our four-year degree was evident in our partners’ 15 letters validating the program’s creation included with our program proposal. Employers voiced a need for employees with a stronger theoretical understanding of biomanufacturing, highly trained individuals for implementing correction on the factory floor and in the production lab and who can independently assess and quickly solve problems.
Through Moorpark College’s well-established track record of supplying a highly trained flow of interns and entry-level employees to industry standards, we are fulfilling the needs of our vital corporate partners.
We have also discovered a phenomenon of individuals with bachelor’s degrees in biology returning to our college to acquire needed post-graduate technical skills to excel in the biomanufacturing production space. The applied degree in biomanufacturing meets this local need.
Community colleges provide a quality education where people live and work. Our bachelor’s degree will support students who are place-bound and not able to either uproot their families or afford the cost of housing and transportation associated with the transfer to a university.
Moorpark College’s core mission is to serve our students. In our goal to serve students in a changing environment, Moorpark, Ventura and Oxnard colleges are innovating and adapting for students’ future success.
Offering a bachelor’s degree in biomanufacturing is about students, equity and meeting industry needs. With this significant investment in biotech in Ventura County, Moorpark College continues to raise the bar in offering educational opportunities that meet our community’s needs.
Julius Sokenu, Ed.D., is the president of Moorpark College. To learn more about Moorpark College and its new biomanufacturing degree, visit MoorparkCollege.edu.