Just-A-Start awarded $46K Grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

April 25, 2014

Grant will further enhance the Organization’s “state of the art” Biomed Careers Program

CAMBRIDGE, MA _ The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced today that the agency has awarded a $46,000 capital grant to Cambridge-based Just-A-Start (JAS) to support the organization’s Biomedical Careers Program.

The funds will be used to purchase a bioreactor, autoclave, and support tools including computer, camera, and monitor equipment and accessories. The grant also provides management and staff with training for using the new equipment.

“In order for Massachusetts to continue to create jobs and prosper, we must train our workers for the jobs of the 21st century global economy,” said Governor Patrick. “Our innovation economy relies on a well-educated, well-skilled workforce, and this grant will expand opportunity and grow jobs in
Massachusetts.”

“Support from prestigious organizations such as the Massachusetts Life Science Center is not only appreciated and needed, but critical in our efforts to provide students with the state-of-the-art training needed for careers in the biomedical field,” said Deborah Ruhe, Executive Director of the 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunity, strengthening community, and improving lives.

“The life sciences sectors are now the fastest job producers in Massachusetts," said Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., President & CEO of the MLSC. “So we want to make sure that all of our young people -- regardless of their gender, race and ethnicity, socio-economic status or zip code -- are exposed to and trained to compete successfully for these 21st century innovation economy jobs. This grant for Just-AStart is a great example of the MLSC's investments to achieve those objectives.”

The JAS Cambridge Biomedical Careers Program has been providing occupational skills training to individuals in partnership with Bunker Hill Community College for 23 consecutive years. The program is free to all income eligible candidates and successful graduates earn 19 college credits. The program has successfully placed more than 400 graduates in entry-level positions in the biomedical and biotechnology arena.

The bioreactor and autoclave will enhance laboratory curriculum for an anticipated 25 participants in next fall’s academic class, as well as class members for five more classes, reaching 125 students over the next six years. “The equipment will allow our training program for entry level jobs in the biotechnology arena to stay current with industry standards, remain competitive with certificate and associate degree biotechnology programs and impart authentic laboratory skills that will keep graduates competitive in a demanding job market,” said JAS Program Director John Witt. “The equipment has been highly recommended by our industry partners and is the type of cost that cannot normally be purchased out of our operational budget.”

The TV, camera, and computer will be utilized to enhance student’s communication skills, whether it is to improve their job interview competencies or to effectively communicate as a team once they secure employment. Many participants are immigrants who possess impressive backgrounds and skills, but at times are limited in their verbal skills. The equipment will help bridge that gap, JAS officials said.

“We are so grateful to MLSC for these equipment grant funds that will enable our students to practice cell culture using an industry-standard bioreactor. This grant award will make pharmaceutical manufacturing standards come alive at the Cambridge Biomedical Careers Program,” said JAS Program Manager, Jennifer O’Donnell.

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About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an investment agency that supports life sciences innovation, research, development and commercialization. The MLSC is charged with implementing a 10-year, $1-billion, state-funded investment initiative. These investments create jobs and support advances that improve health and well-being. The MLSC offers the nation’s most comprehensive set of incentives and collaborative programs targeted to the life sciences ecosystem. These programs propel the growth that has made Massachusetts the global leader in life sciences. The MLSC creates new models for collaboration and partners with organizations, both public and private, around the world to promote innovation in the life sciences.

About Just-A-Start
For more than 40 years, JAS has helped thousands of Cambridge residents build a better future for themselves and their families through affordable housing programs, offering summer youth programs, partnering with YouthBuild, and overseeing the successful biomedical careers program. JAS continues to work to reduce homelessness, help at-risk youth find their path to success, and support unemployed and underemployed gain access to a career path. For more information, visit www.justastart.org

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