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City of Vacaville Introduces Next Generation to Biotechnology and Advanced Manufacturing


Vacaville high school students explore local career opportunities to honor National Career Technical Education Month

VACAVILLE, Calif., Feb. 03, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- February is National Career Technical Education (CTE) Month, and the City of Vacaville joined the celebration by hosting a field trip for 58 Vacaville high school students February 3. The field trip included several locations around Vacaville and Solano County to explore advanced manufacturing and biotechnology.

Every February, the Association for Career and Technical Education encourages communities to celebrate CTE Month, to raise awareness of the role that CTE has in readying learners for college and career success. This is also a time when the City of Vacaville recognizes and celebrates the contributions and achievements of community CTE partners including Solano Community College (SCC) and The Workforce Development Board of Solano County.

“This field trip is an excellent opportunity for Vacaville’s young people to explore advanced manufacturing and biotechnology first-hand,” said Don Burrus, Director of Economic Development Services for the City of Vacaville. “We are excited to give our students this unique learning experience during National Career Technical Education Month and to share opportunities available to them right here in their own community. Not only does this set our students up for success, but it also supports the local, organic growth and expansion of our talent pipeline and attracts more industries.”

The adventure began at the SCC Advanced Manufacturing Lab where students had an opportunity to program CNC (Computer Numerical Control) equipment which plays a pivotal role in manufacturing. The SCC certificate and degree program trains students on electrical and mechanical components used in manufacturing systems.

“The program offers a great solution for students to get into higher level jobs,” said Douglas Green, Advanced Manufacturing Instructor with SCC. “Students get a lot of hands-on training working on real projects, learning how to troubleshoot and problem solve. Almost all of our students, if they're not already working, receive several competing job offers to go right to work.”

Moving next to Wunder-Bar, students experienced firsthand the shift from learning environment to real world manufacturing. Wunder-Bar manufactures food and beverage dispensing systems. A leader in the industry, they pride themselves on innovation, custom product development, quality and top-notch service.

“Career and Technical Education is critical to meeting the workforce needs,” said Emmalie Hawes, Director of Human Resources West Coast, Foodservice West with Wunder-Bar. “Careers in advanced manufacturing are not only in high demand, but they also lead to highly successful careers. As a long-standing business in the community, we are dedicated in advancing the cause.”

Next on the itinerary, students visited the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville for a tour of the SCC Aeronautics Center where they learned about Airframe and Power Plant Maintenance. The program equips students with practical and theoretical knowledge in basic maintenance techniques, and special requirements of airframe and powerplant work. Upon conclusion, students are eligible to take the Federal Aviation Administration written oral and practical examination for airframe or powerplant license.

Creating the connection from education to practice, students then visited ICON Aircraft in Vacaville who provided a tour of their aircraft production facility and an opportunity for the students to meet the technicians who build the amphibious light-sport aircraft.

“ICON takes pride in its aircraft design and is very proud to invite the local community to see the great work that we do in designing the best light aircraft with the first ever “spin resistant” seal of approval from the FAA,” shared Maria Odena Head of ICON’s Human Resources.

“A career in manufacturing typically gives most individuals a hands on experience working with exciting new technologies or products,” added Andrew Mesias, ICON’s Senior Manager at the Aircraft Completion Center.  

The day was concluded with biomanufacturing which included a tour of the Solano College Vacaville Campus California Biomanufacturing Education Center. The $34 million Center is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to further new education opportunities and is one of 15 community colleges in California that offers a Bachelor of Science degree.

“The students can come in, and depending on their personal circumstances, can exit into a high tech, high quality, high potential for upward mobility career,” said Michael Silva, Professor with the Solano Community College Biotechnology Program. “We have a near 100% placement rate and are trying to increase the pipeline and the number of students who are taking our program with a high school to Ph.D. pathway with multiple entry and exit points.”

The final business tour at Vacaville’s RxD Nova Pharmaceuticals created the link between classroom and career. Students were able to see how a biomanufacturing facility operates and the types of careers available in the industry. Students learned the concept of biological drugs and how they differ from chemical drugs, as well as the application of biological drugs in clinical treatment.

“RxD Nova Pharmaceuticals is an emerging biotechnology and biomanufacturing company,” shared Dr. W Shen, Chief Operating Officer at RxD Nova Pharmaceuticals. “We support Vacaville’s Career Technical Education program because we want to help Vacaville's youth grow. Vacaville has long been the center of biomanufacturing in California. We need to help encourage younger, talented students to join the industry and support the development of biomedicine.”

The City of Vacaville has become a leader in the life-science market with a robust Biotech Strategy and a Biotechnology Fast-Track Program committing the City to processing Planning entitlements in 100 days or less. It is not just about available and affordable land; Vacaville’s prime location and talent pipeline have created the perfect ecosystem. Sharing the exciting career opportunities with local high school students offers each of them a wide variety of options right in their own backyard and secures a future in this rapidly growing field for generations to come.

Don Burrus
Director of Economic Development Services

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