Representative Subtheme Challenge:

CCA-01: Workforce Development for the Bioeconomy

Imagine a bustling bioeconomy hub where people from diverse backgrounds, equipped with specialized skills, collaborate on groundbreaking projects. In this scenario, a former petroleum engineer now applies her expertise to optimize biofuel production, thanks to a targeted retraining program. Nearby, a young bioinformatics specialist, who began his journey in a community college, analyzes data from sustainable agriculture projects, his education having seamlessly integrated AI and quantum computing into bioeconomy applications. This community exemplifies the new workforce dynamic, where interdisciplinary collaboration drives innovation, creating numerous job opportunities and economic growth. Sustained investment in education and training programs has fostered this diverse, skilled workforce, propelling the U.S. to the forefront of global bioeconomy leadership. This transformation highlights the realization of a sustainable, inclusive bioeconomy where every individual's potential is harnessed for collective progress.

Meeting the growing needs of the bioeconomy across all sectors requires a diverse, skilled workforce spanning fundamental science to manufacturing. Regional workforce needs vary across the U.S., reflecting the distributed nature of bioeconomic resources. Education and training in emerging fields like AI and quantum computing and non-technical skills in communication and business are crucial. Additional challenges lie in transitioning existing workers from fossil fuel industries and developing education and training programs at all levels.

CASA-Bio stakeholders representing government, industry, and non-profit sectors, identified areas of mutual interest where concerted effort among them may lead more quickly to the realization of the envisioned future. These are a few of their ideas. Research to support workforce development should focus on creating innovative educational models and training methods tailored to the bioeconomy's needs. This includes multidisciplinary learning programs that connect fundamental sciences for the bioeconomy with practical industry applications, for example by developing AI and quantum computing courses specific to bioeconomy challenges. Additional efforts might involve research into effective workforce transition strategies, particularly for workers shifting from fossil fuel industries to bioeconomy sectors. Collaborative efforts with community colleges might aim to establish industry-aligned certifications and programs. Priority should include emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in education and training, exploring new methods for career mapping and transition, and integrating bioeconomy concepts into early education to build a foundation for a diverse and skilled future. We emphasize that this list is not comprehensive; we need you to help us think deeper within this subtheme!

As a member of the R&D community, you too are a CASA-Bio stakeholder, and providing your insight on R&D projects that undergird this sub-theme and lead to solutions is critical. Your ideas will matter! Your individual project ideas and those developed as part of the collaborative Town Hall process will be combined to produce an aggregate view. This view will help us understand not only the interests of the R&D community, but also what they are willing to do to advance the bioeconomy. Topics among the R&D project ideas we receive will help government, industry, and non-profit stakeholders see the potential of the US R&D community to address critical future needs and help define topics for future exploration through workshops and roadmapping.

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CASA-Bio is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Contract No. 49100423P0058. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. National Science Foundation.
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