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Baxter Educational Summit outlines skills, education needed in upcoming jobs
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Education leaders, stakeholders and officials from Newton, Rockdale and surrounding counties got an exciting peek at upcoming jobs in lucrative medical and science fields from medical manufacturing giant Baxter International, Inc. at an Education Summit hosted this past week at Georgia Perimeter College's Newton Campus.

The purpose of the event was to discuss Baxter's future employment needs with more than 50 local officials from high schools, career academies, technical colleges, and universities.

Baxter representatives and engineers from four different areas provided overviews of the educational and experience requirements for positions in the manufacturing, quality control laboratory, maintenance, engineering, validation, and supply chain functions. According to a released statement, these will be the primary focus areas for hiring over the next few years.

"It let us know what kind of employees they're looking for," said JaNice Van Ness, owner of Peachtree Academy private school. "It was really impressive. It reinforced not just the science aspect needed but also the people skills that are required."

Rockdale school board member Katrina Young, director of Continuing Education at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, also attended the Summit and reported at Thursday's school board meeting that some positions would accept high school students with the right training and experience.

"If we set ourselves up, we could be in a good place on that pipeline," she said.

Rockdale County Public Schools is gearing to prepare its students for career in medical, bioscience and life sciences with several initiatives and programs. Edwards Middle School will open a medical science specialty academy starting the 2015-2016 school year, along with Conyers Middle School's technology and engineering specialty academy.

Rockdale Career Academy is also planning to expand its medical learning facilities and programs using funds from the penny sales tax approved for education.

Baxter's needs fit right in with RCPS's direction, said Rockdale Superintendent Richard Autry.

"For two years we've been talking about biosciences," said Autry. Six of the top 10 growing careers are projected to be in the health or medical science fields, he pointed out.

The Baxter Education Summit included a discussion regarding the type of experiences high school and college students should seek in order to prepare themselves for future careers opportunities at not only Baxter, but also the broader life sciences industry.

For high school students, Baxter recommended students continue focusing on STEM classes, including AP science and math courses.

In addition to pursuing associate or bachelor degrees in science, engineering, maintenance, and related fields; college students are encouraged to seek internships, co-ops, and opportunities to demonstrate their leadership capabilities outside of the classroom such as volunteer activities, sports, community service, and more.

In previous interviews, Brien Johnson, Baxter's vice president of program management for its plasma-derived therapies - including the products that will be produced locally - agreed the educational programs were a good start, but he also emphasized that Baxter will be hiring in a number of areas.

"It's a wide range of jobs. There are certain jobs where people, frankly, don't need to know a lot about biotechnology, they need to know about the technology they're working with," Johnson said. "There are huge utilities systems with this plant for example, so we need people with training in circulating water systems, boilers, compressors, a lot of different technology they may learn through the Technical College System or somewhere else other than the BioScience Training Center."

Georgia BioScience Training Center located across from Baxter in Stanton Springs industrial park is expected to open in early 2015, with a Georgia Quick Start program to help maintain "a long-term pipeline of highly skilled employees who are well trained and prepared to work in a bio-manufacturing environment."

About 300 employees have already been hired. Over the next few years, Baxter expects to hire approximately 1,500 employees in Georgia.

Announced in April 2012, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility near Covington will support growth of Baxter's plasma-based treatments. Construction of the $1 billion plant is expected to be finished in 2015, and Baxter will begin production but not for sale. The company will have a two-year delay to allow federal agencies to do a litany of tests, with commercial production expected to start in early 2018.

Job candidates can review open positions at Baxter's career site at