Giselle Mahoney is the manager of communications and media relations for the Tech Collective. Mahoney, a University of Rhode Island alumnus, has been with the Tech Collective since August 2007 in various roles.
Providence-based, the Tech Collective is Rhode Island’s technology industry association, focused on improving the state of the science and technology industries in the Ocean States.
Last week, the organization announced its decision to join the recently created Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes.
PBN: Tech Collective has joined the recently created Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes, why did your organization decide to get involved on a national level?
MAHONEY: Tech Collective has built relationships and is often in communication with our regional and national counterparts – it allows us to learn from and share information with other state bioscience associations with which we share common goals.
The Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes (CSBI) is a formal designation for that purpose, specifically focused on workforce development, education, and entrepreneurship initiatives. As a consortium of 41 states, CSBI will give Tech Collective and Rhode Island a unified national voice, as well as access to resources we otherwise might not have.
PBN: Nationally, what is the CSBI - and the Tech Collective by extension - hoping to accomplish?
MAHONEY: For Tech Collective specifically, we are looking forward to being able to look nationally at approaches and best practices to impact and set standards for STEM education. It is such a critical component of the bioscience industry’s workforce pipeline. We are excited to play a role in the development of STEM education opportunities that we may be able to implement here in Rhode Island.
Another important initiative of CSBI that is underway is the development of an online clearinghouse of all current state-level programs directly related to CSBI’s focus. There are some effective programs out there – and here in Rhode Island – that many of the state affiliates are eager to learn more about.
PBN: Is there any kind of collaboration planned between the state organizations that joined the CSBI?
MAHONEY: Currently, CSBI is working to identify areas of shared investment and potential collaboration in which a coalition-wide approach could be taken. In conjunction with this are the state bioscience associations working through CSBI on an organization-to-organization level. In this area, conversations and collaborations are already happening, and really were the founding component of CSBI.
The creation of the Clearinghouse will additionally identify and facilitate further collaboration around the workforce, education, and innovation spaces.
PBN: What are the main things Tech Collective is working on on the home front in Rhode Island?
MAHONEY: The very short answer is Tech Collective is working to connect Rhode Island’s Bioscience and Information Technology industry with the services and resources that are vital to their growth.
Some highlights include:
As an Industry Partner with the Governor’s Workforce Board of Rhode Island, we are looking at the next 12 months to conduct and update Skills Gap reports for the IT and Bioscience industries. We are also working to secure funding for our training reimbursement program – an initiative which, from 2010 to date, has invested over $370,000 directly into developing the skills of more than 330 Rhode Island employees. Already underway through our Industry Partnership is our pilot Summer Fellowship Program, through which six recent college graduates are participating with the potential to be hired.
Additionally, Tech Collective is working with the Career Pathways initiative as an industry representative and connector. The goal of Career Pathways is to identify, build upon, and connect Rhode Island’s public and private resources, education/training, and job potential into one cohesive, fluid workforce model.
Moving into September, our popular BioTuesday series will begin again; Tech Collective’s Women in Technology committee will be launching its newly developed Peer-to-Peer Mentor program; and Tech Collective will be hosting a “Get the Benefits!” Open House & Expo. In November, Tech Collective plans to launch Rhode Island’s exclusive Bioscience awards program – the Rhode Island Bioscience Awards. We are very excited about that – so stay tuned to www.tech-collective.org for all the details!
PBN: What are the biggest challenges facing the bioscience and technology industries in the Ocean State?
MAHONEY: Two of the most prominent obstacles that Rhode Island’s high-tech industries face are: 1.) a lack of access to resources – ranging from capital to business services; and 2.) a shortage of workers displaying both the high-tech as well as business/soft skills that these industries demand as we continually evolve into a service-based, global workforce.
Of course, though, these challenges are not relegated only to our state – they are similar to many of those faced nationally. And also as with others, Rhode Island has struggled at times to provide the understanding and support required by these rapidly changing, complex industries. However, many initiatives put forth both publically and privately in our state have had an enormous impact on the growth and sustainability of many of the companies here.
In a closing example, in the recently released Battelle/BIO State Bioscience Industry Development 2012 report, Rhode Island’s Bioscience industry employment grew 44.3 percent from 2001-2010. That is not to say our work is done – it certainly isn’t, but it is an achievement – and there are many others – to be proud of and to continue to work towards together.