Expanding Biotech and Health Tech Industries Spur Need for Educated Workforce
As Westchester’s health tech and biotech hub continues to grow, the Westchester County Association is turning its focus on making sure it has the educated workforce high tech, scientific industries require. To that end, Marissa Brett, president of the Westchester County Association, announced today that the WCA has begun a feasibility study to determine the viability of attracting an engineering school to the County.
“It has long been a fact that the United States is not graduating enough engineers to be sufficiently competitive in the global economy,” she pointed out. “And with science and engineering at the heart of economic competitiveness, it is critical to have an educated workforce which will lead to even greater innovation and technological advances. That’s what spurred Mayor Bloomberg to pair Technion University and Cornell University to create a new engineering program in New York City. In Westchester we have the space, the demand, and the commitment to be more competitive. And we have an exploding biotech and health tech industry that requires a skilled workforce.”
To that point, the WCA has begun to lay out the process by which the feasibility study would be conducted. The first step was to engage Mercy College’s Strategic Consulting Institute to examine existing engineering schools focusing on biomedical engineering. She said that as of last week, up to twelve schools were in consideration, and that a special WCA committee to guide the WCA and participate in the process had been formed.
“The committee is comprised of those with engineering, construction, legal, medical, and marketing backgrounds to work with us,” she said, “and to further develop criteria for the selection and evaluation process.” She said that the committee would take into consideration existing engineering programs in the metro New York area, as well as what employers in health tech, biotech, medtech, and IT need.
The object of the feasibility study, she said, “is to continue to make the metropolitan New York region highly attractive to startup and growth industries, and to spur the economic vitality of Westchester County, a goal of the WCA’s BLUEPRINT for Westchester.”
For the past ten years, there has been considerable national discussion about the fact that there has been an “engineering gap” in the United States, as compared to China and India, which are graduating engineers at a much greater rate. As a result, many high-tech companies reported that they were looking to attract talent from outside of the United States.
“We need a new generation of engineers for our Innovation Economy,” says Brett. “These days, when you think of engineering, it’s not just about infrastructure or building better highways and bridges, though we need those, too. Engineering encompasses cancer research, immunology, ‘synthetic biology’ and neuroprosthetics. Technology is not all about building Internet applications, but also about bioengineering. Engineering and the life sciences are converging.” She emphasized that “we must excel in research and invention in order to stay competitive, and we must work more closely with universities and colleges to provide ongoing education and training for employees.”
Earlier this year, the Westchester County Association announced the formation of the Hudson Valley Workforce Academy, to address the critical need for skilled workers and help fill the 2,500+ critical job vacancies in the healthcare, technology, and business sectors in the region. The first course offering in data analytics sold out. The second course on customer satisfaction will begin enrollment in a few weeks.