Feature Story

Strengthening Georgia's Life Sciences Talent

Georgia BioScience Training Center – Critical to Baxter's Ramp-up in Georgia

Hiring and on-boarding 1,500 employees is no easy task. Attempting to accomplish this within the life sciences industry can be even more challenging, due to the specific technical, scientific and manufacturing skills and experience required of job candidates.

So when the state of Georgia offered to build a 50,000 square-foot training center to help with Baxter's massive hiring undertaking at the company's $1 billion bio-manufacturing plant currently being constructed in Covington, company officials were intrigued.

The Georgia BioScience Training Center will not only support the training of Baxter employees, but also those of other life sciences companies that choose to locate within the state. Located directly across from Baxter's facility, the center will offer classroom programs, support research and ultimately attract future growth in the life sciences sector.

Construction of the training center is rapidly progressing. The building's steel frame is in place and work continues on the exterior as the center advances toward an anticipated early 2015 opening. An eye-catching aerial look will be matched by an aesthetic interior, with plenty of glass to let in natural light and show off the bustling activity inside.

The design is fitting for what Georgia officials hope will be an impressive showcase to prospective life sciences companies. Timing of the training center opening is aligned with the beginning of Baxter's hiring ramp-up in Georgia.

The facility will be operated by Georgia Quick Start, the economic development arm of the Technical College System of Georgia. Quick Start has provided similar training programs for major companies like Kia and Caterpillar and has consistently been named the number one workforce training program in the U.S. for the past 15 years.

In addition to classrooms and large meeting space, the center will contain laboratories designed to mimic the maintenance, manufacturing, and quality labs Baxter will have within its facility. This will enable trainees to make a seamless transition to the workplace. Additionally, the equipment within the training labs will be similar to what Baxter employees will operate within their facility. Some of the equipment was donated by Baxter, though the majority of the equipment will be procured by the state of Georgia.

Quick Start officials have spent a significant amount of time studying Baxter processes, touring facilities, and documenting the protocols of plasma fractionation, manufacturing, laboratory testing, and aseptic fill processes.  This will help them develop customized training to meet Baxter's start-up needs and build capacity and curricula within the Technical College System of Georgia for maintaining a long-term pipeline of highly skilled employees who are well trained in bio-manufacturing.

"There were numerous factors that influenced Baxter's decision to build our facility in Georgia," said Baxter's vice president and program executive, Brien Johnson. "However, there was one factor near the top and that was the opportunity to partner with Georgia Quick Start. Together, we have a unique opportunity to influence the future of the employment landscape in the state's life sciences industry."

Baxter has already benefited from its collaboration with Georgia Quick Start. The team established a temporary microbiology and analytical training lab at one of Athens Technical College's nearby campuses; allowing employees to be trained on the equipment they will use in the Baxter laboratories. The temporary lab filled a crucial need for employees who have been participating in knowledge transfer and training trips at other Baxter sites around the world.

Given their strong partnership with the state, Baxter officials know their training needs will be met, whether that means leveraging one of the area technical colleges or building a state-of-the-art training center to provide a biotechnology pipeline for decades to come.

But the training center also signifies bigger things ahead for Georgia's life sciences future, said Baxter human resources director Calvin Klitz.

"The training center is a win-win for both Baxter and the state," says Klitz. "It will not only provide Baxter with skilled employees and enable a more effective ramp-up of our operations, but also allow area residents to gain specialized, lifelong, technical skills for years to come."

For more information about Baxter's new facility in Georgia, please visit: http://www.baxter.com/covington.

For more information about Georgia Quick Start, please visit:  http://www.georgiaquickstart.org.