by Stella Shepard
The Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences (CASTL) is a partnership between academia, industry, and government to address the future skills needs of the Canadian life sciences sector.
In 2020, the PEI BioAlliance alongside the CASTL founding partners launched this multiple stream program for learners to acquire the technical and professional skills, as well as the theoretical knowledge to be work-ready in the bioscience sector.
“Learners include students developing their careers, individuals seeking to reskill for a career change, and workers supported by their employers to receive upskilling opportunities to increase their value to the business,” says Rory Francis, CEO, PEI BioAlliance.
The initiative is bringing together Acadia University, University of Prince Edward Island, Holland College, Université de Moncton, and Community College of New Brunswick, along with industry partners and BioTalent Canada.
“This undergraduate program is in response to the demand and growth of the bioscience sector on PEI and Atlantic Canada and the changes brought on by COVID-19,” says Rory. “There has been more awareness of how important it is for the biotech sector to develop products in Canada to deal with infection control, treatment and prevention. About a dozen companies on PEI are providing or developing products or services to fight COVID-19.
“It is an exciting initiative, and there is nothing like it in Canada,” says Rory. “We are looking forward to building our workforce on PEI and in the whole country.”
The aim of CASTL is to promote new skills development and to grow a pipeline of talent for the future. “The new program is unique in the way it will integrate academic skills, technical skills, and professional skills that come from workplace integrated learning,” says Sue Lefort, Manager of Work Integrated Learning for CASTL.
“This program will give students all three of those competencies and come out with strong ready-to-work skill sets that would make them very attractive to employers,” says Sue. “Life Sciences continues to be an area of high demand, from COVID-19 vaccines and diagnostics, to understanding climate change and feeding the world sustainably.
“Work Integrated Learning is the process through which students come to learn from experiences in practical industry settings,” says Sue. “With CASTL, we offer an enhanced experience where the skills that are offered are then measured against defined learning outcomes to ensure a successful placement.
“Employment in the bioscience cluster has been a positive contributor to the local economy, as it typically offers permanent full-time positions. The average employment income across all workers in the bioscience cluster is 44 percent higher than the average on PEI. There are job postings daily for local positions, with over 200 since January 2020.
“These streams will be integral to fulfil the needs of employers, by providing industry with the talent needed to drive economic recovery,” says Sue. “CASTL coordinates collaboration that combines academic theory with hands-on skills development to build capacity for real-world performance.”
For more information Students interested in learning more can contact their respective co-op offices at participating post-secondary institutions.
For employers interested in learning more, contact Christopher Gillis, Executive Director of CASTL, at [email protected]
For more information about Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences (CASTL), visit www.peibioalliance.com/castl