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A man in a lab coat and safety glasses points to a measuring instrument held by a woman seated at a lab table.

Instructor Rick Lawless works with student Katie Williams in FTCC’s BioWork: Process Technician class. The class trains students for entry level positions in biopharmaceutical manufacturing. [Photo by Brad Losh]

Fayetteville Technical Community College has added a new course focused on training students to start their careers in the growing biotechnology industry.

FTCC offered its first BioWork: Process Technician course through the Corporate and Continuing Education department this spring.

The NC Biotechnology Center developed the BioWork program about 20 years ago as a way to develop the biotech workforce pipeline in the state.

The coursework is standardized so any community college offering the course would prepare students for entry-level positions in the industry. Most of the jobs are in biopharmaceuticals — the manufacturing of drugs — but some can be found in chemical manufacturing or biomanufacturing.

The course lasts about 8 weeks and covers the fundamentals of biomanufacturing, including general manufacturing practices and safety.

Rick Lawless, who taught the initial offering of the course at FTCC, said industry employers around that state have come to recognize the BioWork certificate as a valuable resume piece for potential employees.

“Since it’s been around for 20 years, a lot of the companies in the area — most of them up in the RTP but some in Sanford as well — are advertising entry-level, high school-plus positions with BioWork certificate preferred,” said Lawless, who worked in biotechnology for 35 years before becoming an instructor. “So this certificate means something to hiring managers because it is standardized.”

Lawless said the biotech industry is growing quickly, particularly in North Carolina, where companies are moving to areas in and around the Research Triangle Park.

“We’re looking to build the labor force because companies are coming in so fast that we can’t keep up,” Lawless said. “We’re doing a lot for awareness to get people interested, but also to sponsor them taking BioWork to teach them the fundamentals.”

Two students wearing lab coats and safety glasses work

Two students work together to measure a pill bottle lid during FTCC’s BioWork: Process Technician course. [Photo by Brad Losh]

One sponsorship that is likely to draw interest at FTCC is through the Military Outreach and Veterans Engagement (MOVE) program.

Funds from the grant program cover the cost of the class for military veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses.

Katie Williams, a military spouse and member of the initial course at FTCC, had the cost of her course tuition covered through MOVE.

Williams developed an interest in pharmaceutical development and research after working as a clinical research coordinator over vaccine trials during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When funding for the trials dried up, Williams was laid off.

“Getting laid off was heartbreaking, because there were all these studies that I was interested in,” she said.

When Williams came across information about the BioWork program, she signed up, recognizing it as a related field that would put her back in a career providing necessary help to people.

“It’s still in the vein of my goal, which is figuring out what I can do for my community. How can I help?”

FTCC’s next BioWork course offering begins Aug. 18 and runs through Oct. 17. Registration for the class can be completed through FTCC’s WebAdvisor Continuing Education portal. Search keywork “biowork.”

Prospective students from the military community should contact Rick Lawless at to ask about sponsorship through the MOVE program.