Thermo Fisher Scientific's newly installed training center is equipped with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality capabilities, which mimic a real world operating environment.

More than 100 jobs are coming to Greenville, thanks to a $55 million investment in a state-of-the-art training facility by Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Thermo Fisher dedicated its newly installed training center on Monday afternoon. Officials said the center will advance onboarding and training for employees who will work on the company’s manufacturing line, providing industry-leading resources and technologies.

"The expansion is fully focused on making sure our colleagues have a great experience and ensuring that we fulfill our mission, which is to enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer," Thermo Fisher Scientific's Chief Executive Officer Mark Casper said.

Specifically, the facility is equipped with virtual reality and augmented reality capabilities, which will mimic a real-world operating environment and equipment and reduce the amount of training time by 50 percent, resulting in cost savings, a news release said.

"This was built to help our employees feel successful and when we started building this, we looked at sterile operators who could not get into the sterile space to start training," said Chris Binion, director of augmented execution systems engineering. "And we wanted to know how we could get them up to speed faster and more effectively."

According to the release, the new training center is part of Thermo Fisher’s $55 million investment in Greenville, to expand its capabilities and capacity and help its customers develop and deliver the highest-quality medicines to patients around the world. The expansion also creates additional jobs in the Greenville market, with more than 100 positions open for application.

A total of 1,500 employees work at the 1.5 million-square-foot pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, which is the core of Thermo Fisher’s pharma services. Some of the medicines made at the site help treat patients with conditions like cancer, heart disease and blood clots.

"For Thermo Fisher this is a really important technology," Michel Lagarde, president of pharma services said of the new training facility. "We're a global business and that means we have many talented colleagues all over the world.

"In addition to being able to train in a virtual environment, it also allows us to connect colleagues around the world," Lagarde said. "We think this technology will enable an even closer alignment."

Doug Rufino, vice president of global corporate quality, said that the virtual environments are crucial for allowing employees to perfect their skills before entering challenging work environments.

"You can work in an environment to hone certain skills and you can do that in a way that you can't do it in the actual environment," Rufino said.

"(Employees) understand the environment before they're going into it," he said. "In a sterile environment, you have to gown up, you have to walk through a very very rigorous training program to get into the space. And if you're an operator who is new, you can't interfere with the space. You almost have to be a statue in the room.

"(During virtual reality training) they're doing the same things the operators are doing but they're not gowned up and they're moving in a way that the operators can't," Rufino said. "They can really learn the techniques and the basics and the principles in a way they never could've before."

As part of the dedication, Thermo Fisher presented a check for $5,000 along with 1,200 backpacks filled with science materials to the Pitt County Education Foundation.

"We certainly appreciate what you're doing for our kids," Pitt County Schools Superintendent Ethan Lenker said. "We can only do so much with the kids and we've got to give them opportunities. You guys are doing that right here in Greenville and Pitt County."

The backpacks will be provided to all middle schools in Pitt County, to support students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. The backpack donation is part of Thermo Fisher's "STEMcredibles" education program.

Encouraging STEM studies is an investment in the future for Thermo Fisher, which has revenues of more than $24 billion and approximately 70,000 employees globally.

According to the news release, the company helps customers accelerate life sciences research, solve complex analytical challenges, improve patient diagnostics, deliver medicines to market and increase laboratory productivity.

Through their brands — Thermo Scientific, Applied Biosystems, Invitrogen, Fisher Scientific and Unity Lab Services — the company offers a combination of innovative technologies, purchasing convenience and comprehensive services, the release said.