Over the last several years, County College of Morris (CCM) has developed links with several major chemical and pharmaceutical companies to ensure its biotechnology and chemical technology programs remain relevant and to provide students with internships and possible employment.
The college’s success in that area has drawn the attention of the American Chemical Society (ACS) which has listed CCM as a model for developing industry partnerships. It also has appointed Anthony Di Stasio, assistant professor of chemistry, to a national task force charged with addressing workforce needs through two-year college partnerships.
Chairing that task force is Mary Engelman of Eastman Chemical Company.
“The fact that we’ve been recognized by ACS is a tremendous accomplishment for CCM and its students,” says Di Stasio.
At CCM, Di Stasio has led the charge to develop effective partnerships by overseeing and chairing an Industrial Advisory Committee of business representatives and developing internship opportunities for students. The committee assists the college with incorporating applicable laboratory, technical and soft skills, and hands-on course work into the biotechnology and chemical technology programs so students are well prepared to enter the workforce or transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree.
According to the ACS, there is an urgent need to educate students to fill the positions that will be vacated through retirements and to meet a growing demand for critical technical expertise. Two-year colleges can help to meet that need not only by educating students but also by providing top students with internships that often can lead to full-time employment upon graduation, notes Di Stasio.
“The real cornerstone of our program is that companies can send over their job descriptions and I can screen the students so they get exactly what they need,” he explains.
To date, CCM students have interned at BASF, Elusys Therapeutics, Evonik Industries and Pfizer, oftentimes working with interns from some of the nation’s top schools, including Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Virginia Tech. Other internships also are being developed, says Di Stasio.
CCM offers an Associate of Applied Science in Biotechnology and an Associate in Applied Science in Chemical Technology, along with an Associate in Science in Biology and an Associate of Science in Chemistry. Currently, more than 450 students are enrolled in those programs.