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Pharmaceutical company launches scholars program

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Lawrence Rouse, president of Pitt Community College, speaks at the announcement of the Mayne Pharma Scholars Program. “We know that right now it's very difficult to get good employees," he said. "This is a good way to grow our own.”


By Kim Grizzard
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Pharmaceuticals developer and manufacturer Mayne Pharma has unveiled a program that focuses on a different kind of development — workforce development.

The Mayne Pharma Scholars Program, announced Tuesday, aims to draw STEM-focused students into pharmaceutical careers. The initiative is designed to help address a shortage of qualified workers in the industry.

“Really the heart of this program is about creating a pipeline of opportunity for young people to enter the pharmaceutical industry,” Mayne Pharma Vice President of Group Human Resources Andrew Herdman told partners from Pitt Community College, Pitt County Schools and the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce at the launch. “It is to create an on-ramp that allows them to launch a career that they may not have understood was otherwise available.”

Based on an apprenticeship model more commonly seen in the trades industry, the program is seeking high school seniors or PCC students with an aptitude for science to be trained as lab analysts for Mayne Pharma. Scheduled to begin this fall with an inaugural class of eight, the program will provide two-year scholarships, valued at $8,000, for students to pursue an associate's degree in biotechnology at PCC.

Participants will be selected based on high school or college transcripts, along with Career Readiness Certificate or ACT scores, teacher recommendation and an interview.

While in school, scholars will have a chance to complete paid internships at Mayne Pharma. In exchange, they make a commitment to work for the company for a minimum of two years following graduation. After completion of at least two years with the company, Herdman said, scholarship recipients may be eligible for additional support from Mayne Pharma toward the completion of a bachelor's degree.

“We're not completely altruistic in this,” he said. “We have a very real need we're hoping to meet.”

The company, which completed an $80 million expansion last spring, has a workforce of about 500, including about 200 analytical chemists. But finding qualified applicants for those positions can be difficult.

“Talent is a key need for us,” Herdman said. “We can't grow here like we want to grow unless we are able to find the talent.”

PCC's biotechnology department began offering courses two years ago to address the talent shortages in the local pharmaceutical industry.

“When you think of biotechnology you don't really think of chemistry, but there was such a need in these labs,” said Christy Weeks, who chairs PCC's biotechnology department.

PCC biotechnology instructor Ben Trimpi, a former analytical chemist at Mayne Pharma, worked in collaboration with the company to develop two courses designed to train students on equipment, software and procedures used in the industry.

“The collaboration has a whole lot to do with why it's so successful,” Trimpi said. “They do exactly what they do on the job.”

The laboratory-intensive program, which today involves about 10 students, is expected to nearly double its enrollment with the addition of the first Mayne Pharma Scholars.

Of PCC biotechnology students set to graduate in May, Weeks said three of the four who focused on pharmaceuticals have jobs waiting for them. A student who graduated in December started a job three days later.

“It's, I guess, a seller's market as far as the students are concerned,” Weeks said. “There are way more job opportunities than there are students that we can send them.”

Weeks routinely has to tell recruiters and staffing agencies who are seeking to hire graduates for positions in other areas that students already have accepted local jobs.

Herdman hopes that the addition of the Mayne Pharma Scholars Program will help to keep it that way.

“It's about raising awareness and creating opportunity and giving kids hope for what's possible right here in their own backyards,” he said. “They can operate and work with a global pharmaceutical company without leaving the zip code.”

Mayne Pharma Scholars applications will be available next month at pittcc.edu. For more information, email kweeks@email.pittcc.edu.