A Solid Education Foundation is Critical for Area’s Bioscience Plans

The availability of higher education is an important part of any community’s ability to maintain a stable economy with well-paying jobs. In Memphis, the development of a thriving bio-economy is in large part dependent upon our ability to create a highly knowledgeable workforce with experience in the bioscience industries.


In 2004, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education (NCE) statistics reported there are more than 179,000 students enrolled in higher education within a 150 mile radius of Memphis. In Memphis and Shelby County, the total enrollment was more than 43,000 students.

What impressed me the most about NCE’s statistics, however, was the number of degrees awarded in science, mathematics and technology.

Regionally, health professions and clinical science degrees and certificates was the second most popular course of study – surpassed only by business management and marketing. Specialized biomedical and biological science degrees were among the top ten popular areas of study. (Please see the list of top ten areas of study below.)

Overall, more students (30 percent) pursued degrees in science, mathematics and technology than in any other area. There were 9,340 science, mathematics or technology- related degrees awarded in 2004, and only 9,269 degrees given in the business, management or professional services areas of study.

To me, these numbers are significant because they show that the Memphis region is successfully directing much-needed talent into the fields of study that are critical to a thriving bioscience community. Many steps are being taken among local educational institutions to build an even stronger base of skilled workers.

A number of noteworthy initiatives have launched within the past two years that will dramatically increase the area’s trained bioscience workforce. The University of Memphis has added a biomedical engineering degree to its curriculum, Southwest Tennessee Community College has a two-year program to train technicians, and Tennessee Technology Center has just launched a laboratory animal technician program.

In order for the region’s students to have real-life experience to go along with their training, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation has launched an internship program to match local businesses with high school and college students.

And we cannot forget the work being accomplished at the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering (MASE), Tennessee’s first charter school. MASE will graduate its first class in just two years. As Board Chair of MASE, this is an exciting milestone that I am looking forward to.

Table 1

Top Ten Most Popular Degree Programs Within a 150-mile Radius of Memphis
(2004 U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics)

Business, Management and Marketing
Health Professions & Clinical Sciences
Education
Psychology
Social Sciences
Liberal Arts, Humanities & General Studies
Biological & Biomedical Sciences
Communications & Journalism
English & Literature
Visual & Performing Arts

Table 2

Most Popular Overall Areas of Study in the Memphis Region
(2004 U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics)

Science, Mathematics & Technology
Business, Management & Professional Services
Social Science
Arts & Humanities

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