Guest Commentator: Brian Keith, Ph.D., Dean of Biomedical Studies, The Wistar Institute @TheWistar

What development opportunities are available to Philadelphia residents interested in biotechnology and looking to expand and strengthen their skills?

Who says you need a doctorate to work in science? The biotechnology industry is expanding rapidly in Philadelphia with new companies being established at the Science Center and Schuylkill Yards in University City, as well as the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia, adding to the already extensive biomedical research enterprise at Philadelphia’s major research universities. Interestingly, an important fraction of biomedical and biotechnology research work is performed by technical staff, lab assistants, and other professional scientists who love science and are highly specialized in what they do but may not want to pursue a path to becoming principal investigators or academic professors.

If you are fascinated by the idea of working in a biomedical or biotechnology lab, looking to enter a profession that allows you to make an impact, or simply considering a career switch into science, The Wistar Institute offers a number of training opportunities. The Biomedical Technician Training Program (BTTP) is the flagship of The Wistar’s professional training endeavors. Through a long-standing partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), it offers academic course work combined with specialized training in The Wistar laboratories and has prepared community college students for research assistant and technician careers for the past 20 years.

A step beyond BTTP, the Biomedical Research Technician (BRT) Apprenticeship is the first registered, nontraditional apprenticeship in the biomedical sciences in the country and was ratified by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry in 2017. The apprenticeship was created in response to the growing demand for a highly specialized workforce by the biotechnology enterprise thriving in the Philadelphia area.

As a nontraditional apprenticeship, BRT applies the model used by skilled trades and answered the call from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to create out-of-the-box training opportunities to connect skilled and qualified workers with highly specialized jobs. In a win-win situation, apprentices learn technical and professional skills valued by the life sciences industry that will make them stand out on the job market and earn a wage as they train.

These programs bring to The Wistar a diverse population of CCP trainees, including early-phase students, more seasoned individuals who want a career change, or foreign nationals repurposing their previous education and training.

For those still embarking on their educational careers, The Wistar’s High School Fellowship in Biomedical Research offers School District of Philadelphia high school students, who may be curious about a career in science, an opportunity to explore it beforehand by practicing the daily life of a scientist for eight weeks in the summer. Under the direction of the laboratory head and the supervision of the lab members, students assist with unique research projects through which they learn research tools and techniques and make connections between laboratory experience and their academic studies.

To learn more about careers in biomedical research and how The Wistar can help you enter the life sciences workforce, please visit

The Wistar Institute is a member of the Chamber’s Talent Action Team, a group of 140+ Chamber members focused on creating clear pathways for the alignment between individuals and employers to assure that we are training and engaging the region’s current and future leaders. Learn more about the Chamber’s talent work.

Upcoming Event

Retaining Top Talent: Effective Approaches to Engaging and Retaining Top Employees
Tuesday, November 12 | 8:00 – 10:00 a.m.
The Chamber

At this discussion-based workshop, join other CEOs and HR professionals to share challenges and successes in talent retention. In small working groups, attendees will have the opportunity to brainstorm and generate ideas around attracting, engaging, and retaining talent.