LabCentral Ignite's Career Forge: Empowering the Next Generation of Biotech Professionals

June 6, 2024 | By Sara Murji

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LabCentral Ignite's Career Forge is a pioneering workforce development program that trains and places underrepresented individuals into lab-based biotech roles by partnering with hiring teams within LabCentral’s startup and biopharma network. Over an intensive three-week course, participants master the technical skills and workplace competencies needed to secure positions as Research Assistants, Associates, or Quality Control Analysts. Since the first cohort in 2021, 50 "Career Forgers" have completed the program, with approximately 78% securing roles in biopharma or pursuing further education.

The genesis of Career Forge arose from LabCentral’s industry and academic connections, where we identified a gap: students graduating with science degrees were struggling to find entry-level roles in life sciences due to their lack of hands-on lab experience. We also heard from the leaders of LabCentral’s resident companies that they were having trouble finding talent to fill their open positions. These insights inspired Career Forge's accelerated “upskilling” format, targeting individuals seeking full-time, entry-level research positions. 


Giselle Martinez found her way to Career Forge through LabCentral Ignite’s Life Sciences in Full Color public awareness campaign. After graduating with a bioengineering degree, Giselle had been job hunting for nearly a year when she saw an ad on the train. She discovered the Career Forge program on the campaign website, “It was exactly what I needed because I didn't have any lab experience. So that's what drew me,” Giselle said. “I graduated with a bachelor's in bioengineering with a concentration in cell and tissue. But surprisingly enough, there weren't a lot of lab classes.”

Collaborating with experts at LEAS LAB, we offer 80 hours of intensive training on essential technical skills such as lab safety, aseptic cellular culture techniques, DNA extraction spectrometry, PCR, and gel electrophoresis.

Kelton Nguyen completed Career Forge in 2023. Reflecting on his experience, Kelton shared, “Even though I did research in my undergraduate career, there were still some holes in my skills. So when I was at Career Forge, I got familiar with certain techniques that I haven't done before, like HPLC and QPCR. And now in my current role I'm doing QPCR and HPLC. I feel like without that familiarity that I got from Career Forge, I would be pretty lost. I think something that Career Forge does really well is it gives you a lot all at once, and that prepares you for a startup situation where you might be tasked with learning things on your own, or handling a lot at once.” 

To ensure that Career Forgers are well-rounded and prepared for job placement, we partner with JVS Boston, to provide training on resume building, interview skills, networking, professional communications, and presentation skills.

After completing Career Forge in 2023, Giselle found a full-time role at a LabCentral resident startup company. “I think it really matters who you know,” Giselle said, “because I think your credentials can only get you so far. But who you know really opens doors for you. What’s good about Career Forge is they stressed the importance of networking. We also had workshops on networking. And we got to participate in other events [at LabCentral] when we had time.”

Hosting Career Forge within LabCentral’s state-of-the-art shared lab facilities exposes participants to cutting-edge science and offers opportunities to interact with and learn from scientists and professionals from our resident and sponsor companies.

In 2023, LabCentral received $668,773 from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center’s (MLSC) Workforce Development Capital Grant Program to further develop and expand Career Forge. This funding will support three cohorts of Career Forgers this year, aiming to place over 30 diverse individuals into the biotech sector. 

Speaking on the importance of diverse representation in the life sciences, Giselle shared, “It's extremely important. I think I had a lot of imposter syndrome, and it was kind of shocking to me. It was hard to envision myself as a scientist, from a low economic background as well as being Latina. So, I think that made it kind of hard for me to be confident.” Kelton also emphasized how essential representation and diversity are to innovation, especially in small, early-stage companies. “If you have any sort of implicit biases, you'll be missing some great people. And those great people can accelerate your company, your research, and your impact on patients. Especially at this scale, you're so small starting out, one person out of five is 20% of your company. So it's important that you get people with different perspectives, people with different ideas, different backgrounds, because that's where real creativity comes in." 

The most recent cohort of Career Forge cohort concluded on June 3 and the next kicks off July 8. If you are interested in learning more about the candidates to see if they might be the right fit for your team or how you can get involved with the program in the future, reach out to