Firms, Schools In Partnership By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter Two of the largest companies in the local area have partnered with some of the region’s schools to provide job training for employees and assist in educating the future workforce. Amgen Inc. is providing internships to eight Cal State Channel Islands students, and U.S. Borax is offering College of the Canyons students the opportunity to work in its Valencia laboratory. The partnership gives companies an additional resource for trained workers and it gives the schools greater clout because they can place their students in desirable jobs. “It’s opened a big door for our students,” said Dr. Ching-Hua Wang, a professor of immunology and microbiology at Channel Islands. “Some of the interns that we have at Amgen will probably be hired there.” Nationwide, a renewed focus is emerging on preparing a better workforce, an idea that has taken on life after President Bush spoke of it in his State of the Union speech last month. Locally, these private-public partnerships are especially timely because they come as budget cuts have weakened public higher education. The programs are still relatively new, and the companies and the schools are still working out many of the details. Last month, Channel Islands began offering two classes taught by Amgen scientists. One is called “Drug Discovery and Development” and another is “Biology of Cancer.” Both are available only to upper division students, or juniors and seniors. Simultaneously, eight of the school’s undergraduate science majors have begun interning at the Thousand Oaks biotech company. The internship program lasts a semester and sometimes longer, depending on a particular student, and the interns help scientists with research and development of new drugs. Amgen declined to speak to the Business Journal about the partnership. Hiring from the area? Channel Islands administrators said they did not know whether the internships would lead to permanent positions as entry-level research associates. But the school officials reason that it would be to Amgen’s advantage to hire current residents rather than recruit from outside the area. The university itself is having difficulty attracting professors from other states because of the area’s ever-increasing living cost, said Peggy Hinz, a Channel Islands spokeswoman. So, for Amgen “it makes sense to produce students who can stay in this area,” she said. Amgen and Channel Islands began discussions in 2001 but the school was just opening and it took time to build the required infrastructure. Channel Islands is also laying groundwork for partnerships that Wang and others hope will lead to student internships at BioSource International and Medical Packaging Corp., also companies along the tech corridor. Wang said the Amgen program is the largest established thus far. Channel Islands also provides instructors for about 30 entry-level research associates at Amgen. The classes are taught on the Amgen premises, paid for by Amgen. At the same time, several Amgen scientists are teaching classes for Channel Islands’ science students, said Wang, who oversees all of the university’s science area. Seventeen Amgen scientists have sent resumes hoping to teach classes, Wang said. Their interest is not in the minimal salaries that Channel Islands can offer, she added, but the opportunity to share their expertise. With access to some of the nation’s top notch scientists vis- & #341;-vis Amgen, Channel Islands is also readying a graduate program in biotechnology, Wang said. The program is expected to be offered this fall for the first time. But there is another benefit to the program for Channel Islands. Namely, the ability to tout its relationship with Amgen as a tool to recruit additional students to the school. “Being where we are, it makes sense to keep an eye on the Amgens, Baxters and the Wellpoints,” said Hinz. “We’re providing their future workforce, they provide us with their knowledge and expertise in their industry.” And Channel Islands is hoping to build similar relationships with other companies. “There is nothing standing in our way,” Hinz said. “We see this as a beginning there’s nothing but greatness ahead.” Borax program At Valencia-based U.S. Borax, an internship program with Santa Clarita’s College of the Canyons has been in place for a year. Three students are working alongside Borax researchers at their lab. “They do a lot of analytical testing looking at various applications of borates, and students do basic research,” said Rick Clark, a professor at COC who founded the engineering department there four years ago after moving to Santa Clarita from Blacksburg, Va. Clark, who taught at Virginia Tech while working full-time for an engineering company, said internships have proved invaluable for some COC students. He said one went on to study engineering at UC Berkeley a highly regarded program while another two went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal State Northridge, which have solid programs in their own right, he said. The number of students that intern at the Borax lab varies on research opportunities, Clark said. In addition to Borax, local companies including Canyon Engineering Products and Vista Controls have placed COC students in internships recently, Clark said. The partnerships also extend to financial and other donations a traditional method of academic-business interaction. U.S. Borax is giving College of the Canyons $100,000 in five annual installments to pay for construction of a building called the University Center. A fundraising campaign in progress should raise the remaining money needed for construction, Fernandez said. Amgen is also donating more than its human capital. It gave Channel Islands $360,000 worth of equipment, including an advanced X-ray machine, and recently followed that up with another gift worth $200,000 to Channel Islands, a fledgling CSU campus that became independent from Cal State Northridge several years ago.