ImpactWinter/Spring 2019

Building a Biotech Talent Pipeline

When one of the world’s leading biotech companies began experiencing a workforce development gap, the solution was to partner with the University of Indianapolis to create the Roche Academy.

Roche by the Numbers:

  • 93,000 employees worldwide
  • 4,500 employees at U.S. headquarters in Indianapolis

What makes the Roche Academy truly innovative is a focus on creating an early-in-career talent pipeline. Historically, Roche had recruited professionals from other companies and industries. UIndy students who successfully complete the program receive educational opportunities, professional development and financial incentives, including a job offer from Roche upon graduation. It’s a partnership that specifically prepares students for employment at the biotech firm.

Russ Fellows, project leader for Roche Diagnostics, has worked in myriad roles during his more than 25 years with the company.

“The Roche Academy is critical to our business. It develops a pipeline of early-in-career talent with new and fresh ideas to the organization, who can be mentored by tenured Roche employees with many years of experience,” said Fellows. “This program truly provides highly skilled reinforcements to our workforce. It allows us to hire UIndy graduates with the skills and attributes we value in an employee, who we then continue to develop with Roche-specific training and professional development.”

One of the students on this path is Will Durchholz ’20 (chemistry). Durchholz completed a Roche-influenced curriculum path and summer internship focused on further developing life science and engineering skills with the goal of becoming a biomedical equipment technician. As an intern with Roche Support Network providing customer and instrument support, Durchholz took part in professional development workshops and gained valuable science and computer skills.

“I had the opportunity to spend time with each part of this organization to get the ‘full circle’ perspective of how everything worked,” said Durchholz. “I learned a little bit about the business world that I had never been exposed to as a chemistry major.”

“Roche chose UIndy because we know our students,” explained Dr. Levi Mielke, assistant professor of chemistry and recipient of the University’s 2018 Teacher of the Year Award. “Our primary job as faculty is the development and evaluation of talent. We inspire students to problem-solve and diagnose.”

STEM faculty are vital in supporting the Roche Academy by elevating student development through innovative lab experiences and adjusting coursework to meet the needs of the program.

Several critical factors informed Roche’s decision to partner with UIndy, ultimately identifying the institution as being the best equipped to develop talent in an agile environment. In all, Roche reviewed 38 programs from universities across the state.

“UIndy was also willing to have students target specific electives and create new courses to further adapt the curriculum to adhere to Roche’s desired skill sets,” said Fellows. “We were very impressed by the enthusiasm of UIndy’s faculty and appreciate their relentless drive to prepare students. It is a unique level of engagement that is focused on adjusting the curriculum to make students work-ready.”

Fellows describes UIndy students as “remarkably mature and adaptable with a level of professionalism that is not an entry-level mindset.”

By establishing a partnership benefitting both student and employer, the Roche Academy sets each up for future success, including developing relationships with the Office of Admissions and the Professional Edge Center for a broader range of employment opportunities. The partnership gives students the opportunity to walk into an industry-leading organization after graduation, having already proven themselves as valuable assets.

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