Pathways Improvement Scope
Downey Unified School District (DUSD), in south Los Angeles (LA) County, is situated amid a landscape of new investment in life sciences and biotechnology, with median annual earnings for community college students exiting programs within the sector among the top earners across all industries (LA County Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research, 2021). DUSD enrolls 22,261 students with 67.9% qualifying for free/reduced price lunch, and 95% students of color, including 88.8% of students identifying as Hispanic or Latino. Life science industries in LA County counts 1,067 leading-edge companies in industrial biotech and biofuels, biopharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostics equipment, and research and lab services. The 195,820 county employees in the sector earn average wages between $55,868 and $97,041 (Biocom, 2020). LA’s 2021-24 Regional Plan highlights LS/BT among priority local industry sectors, and notes growing sub-sectors for middle-skill workers, including medical device manufacturing that will bring new access to related jobs in quality control, regulatory compliance, and clinical research support services (https://losangelesrc.org/la-workforce/).
DUSD seeks K12 SWP funds to connect underrepresented students to in-demand, middle-skill and high-skill jobs in emerging local sub-sectors through an updated Biotechnology pathway in LA Regional Consortium priority sector Life Sciences and Biotechnology (LS/BT), at comprehensive high schools Warren, with 3,451 students, and Downey, with 4,314 students.
In the LA-Long Beach-Glendale Metropolitan Division, jobs for Clinical Lab Technologists and Technicians are expected to grow 16.1% through 2028 and bring in annual median wages of $53,921; Life Scientists (19-1000) are expected to grow 15%; and Microbiologists (19-1022) are predicted to increase 11.4% with median annual wages of $94,645. All are considered middle skill occupations that do not require a bachelor’s degree. One of the fastest growing LA County occupations across all industries is Statisticians— those who interpret scientific data—with a 37.4% projected increase in number of jobs available through 2028. (LA County Profile Employment and Wages). Clinical Lab Technologists and Technicians and similar jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees are expected to grow up to 16.1% through 2028 in the LA-Long Beach-Glendale Metropolitan Division with median annual wages up to $94,645 (Employment Projections: Long-Term Projections for LA County).
Goals & Priorities
K12 SWP funding will connect hundreds more DUSD high school students to expanded access to industry mentors, employers and a structured system of support by updating the existing Life Science/Biotechnology (LS/BT) pathway with two new courses, adding new work-based learning opportunities for students, purchasing equipment that articulates to postsecondary and industry, and incorporating DUSD’s Advanced Placement for CTE and Advanced CTE Mathematics. Updates include integrating the courses: the Technology of Biology, a UCCI year 1 concentrator course, and the college-level course Introduction to Biotechnology (CA Community College) as a 2-year LS/BT sector sequence.
DUSD will explore articulations to a new Biotech program at partner Cerritos College now in curriculum approval, which includes certificates of achievement in Basic Wet Lab Skills and Biomanufacturing, and an associate degree in Biotechnology.
The District’s support network for CTE students has been tested over 6 years of workforce programs and internships leading to in-demand, emerging jobs. existing employer connections and the potential for new partners with expanded funding entering the region for technical and research jobs beyond the traditional physician or nurse categories. In addition to current partnerships with Innovative Genomics Institute of UC Berkeley & UC San Francisco, Harvard Medical School, and microbiologists studying gene-editing technology CRISPR, DUSD will explore new partnerships with Downey-area bioscience employers Geomax Engineering, Labcorp, incubator Incuvation Labs, Pharma Rex Inc, Captek Softgel International, Asset Laboratories, Ds Environmental Supplies, Honeycloud Technologies, incubator LA BioMed, LA Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and UCLA campus, USC and Caltech (Center for a Competitive Workforce, 2020).
Pathway improvement complements established DUSD pre-apprenticeship benchmarks for LS/B students including skills development combined with support within DUSD’s apprenticeship ecosystem. Career exploration and work experiences occur with biotechnology industry mentors to grapple with new genomics science and technology along with ethical and far-reaching implications related to disease and equitable access. DowneyMADE internships link students to science mentors who prime interested students for careers as biological technicians (19-4021), a middle-skill occupation designated both recession and pandemic resilient in LA County.
Industry Sector(s) Or Pathway(s)