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DRAPER — Utah now has a new streamlined pathway for high school students to get jobs in the booming medical innovations industry.
The Utah Medical Innovations Pathways (MIP) program gives students the chance to graduate high school with a certificate in medical manufacturing innovations and begin a career in life sciences.
MIP is a replication of the Utah Aerospace Pathways program, which was established last year. Its success in the aerospace industry attracted interest from other industries seeking to start their own pathway programs.
Edwin Carcano is a senior at Skyline High School who got a tour of medical device manufacturing Tuesday at Edwards Lifesciences in Draper. The company makes lifesaving heart valves and employs more than 900 people.
As part of the MIP program, Carcano is already learning in a lab at school this semester.
“(I’m learning) just the basics of manufacturing in order to take this program," he said.
Carcano is working with carbon fiber and epoxy to mold objects. He's excited about the opportunities he'll have when he finishes the pathways program next spring.
“A lot of students come out not knowing what they want to do,” Carcano said. “They don't know what they want in life. Just seeing this opportunity gives you a little glimpse of what you have in the future. That's really interesting to me.”
The Medical Innovations Pathways program is hands on, and Carcano likes the idea of helping others.
"I think it would be a great opportunity," he said. "So when I go into college, I won't be like a deer in the headlights. I'll actually know what to do."
Through the pathways program, seniors in high school can start to learn about the industry and learn valuable skills. When they graduate from high school, they can move into an internship or even a job.
"This is a sector that's growing and helping to impact our economy in a very positive way," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
With more than 1,074 life sciences companies in Utah, the industry is growing 4 percent annually. Today, the industry employs 34,000 people with average salaries around $64,000 a year.
"But, they're running out of labor," Herbert said.
That's the challenge for the industry. But the pathways program can provide a pipeline of trained employees.
"This is somewhat self-preservation for this dramatically growing industry here in Utah," Herbert said.
MIP industry partners include Bard Access Systems, BD Medical, BioFire Diagnostics, Biomerics, CoNextions Medical, Edwards Lifesciences, EZ Lift Rescue Systems, Fresenius Medical Care, GE Healthcare, Merit Medical, Nelson Labs, Sorenson Genomics, Stryker Corporation and Varian Medical Systems. USA Funds provided a $1 million grant to the state to develop the program.
The Medical Innovations Pathways program is already underway in the Granite School District. It will expand to the Davis and Canyons school districts next year.
The first semester of the program takes place in the high school, while the second semester will implement curriculum in partnership with Salt Lake Community College. Students will also participate in internships and job shadow experiences with life science companies involved in the program.
Once they complete MIP program and pass pre-employment requirements, students will be certified to begin work with one of the life science partners in Utah, receiving a family-sustaining wage.