Kean University hosts Innovation Summit

State collaborates with colleges to prep students for life sciences careers.

Researchers at Kean University are conducting research to see if certain bacteria survive in the presence of antibiotics.

Jessica Schuyler, an associate scientist at Kean University, says she’s been involved in science as far back as high school. She says the field is only growing.

“I just figure they’ll always be bacteria and they’ll always be antibiotics, so I think it’s important people keep researching it,” she said.

And, she’s right. According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, numbers from 2015 show just how much the life sciences industry impacts the economy in the state.

Alex Ancianis, life sciences analysts at the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, says about 116,000 people were hired in the field that year.

This is a need echoed by others at the Life Sciences Innovation Summit held at the Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship at Kean University.

“Life sciences is an important industry in New Jersey as we all know being the hub of the pharmaceutical industry,” said Executive Director of the Entrepreneur Center at the Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship Sam Kongsamut.

So, we know there are high paying jobs available, but what exactly are businesses looking for in potential candidates?

In order to find that answer, the State Department of Labor started the Talent Networks about six years ago. It hosted a series of events, like the summit, in a range of different fields that focused on health care, technology, hospitality and tourism. The mission is bringing together business leaders, politicians and educators.

“We need to keep working with companies, with educational institutions, to make sure we have more people who have the skills that are needed by the growing companies in our state,” said Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor Aaron Fichtner.

He says right now about 50 percent of adults in New Jersey have some form of education after high school. But, he wants to see that number increase to 65 percent “by 2025 if we’re going to have a competitive labor market and competitive economy,” he added.

People like recent Kean graduate Gagan Kaur, who got her masters degree in Biotech in Dec. 2016, is now fulfilling her childhood passion.

“I like it so much because it’s more innovative. You get to learn a lot,” she said, “and I got hired right there even before graduating.”

We’re in this together
For a better-informed future. Support our nonprofit newsroom.
Donate to NJ Spotlight