Medical Devices

Medical manufacturing jobs are changing. Colleges & industry must innovate education to keep up

Educating future scientists, entrepreneurs and doctors and nurses is certainly crucial as healthcare sees fundamental shifts in policy and technological advances that not long ago seemed unimaginable.

But there’s another group for whom education is also becoming increasingly important in the push to deliver better healthcare at a lower cost. Advances in technology are changing the way we manufacture medical devices and drugs, too, and community colleges in some of the country’s medical hubs are rising to the occasion.

As machinery becomes more efficient, it also becomes more complex to operate, said Sheryl Conley, CEO of Indiana orthopedic trade group OrthoWorx.


“In most of the operations, they no longer use five to six different lower-tech machine; now there’s two or three machines that do everything. It’s a change in workflow,” she said. “The type of equipment that is utilized today has a much higher skillset required and a lot more work related to computers associated with the equipment itself.”

That’s why OrthoWorx joined up with Ivy Tech’s Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in Warsaw, Indiana earlier this year to launch a certificate program focused on training specifically for advanced orthopedic manufacturing.

A committee of industry professionals helped collectively determine the community’s unmet needs (Warsaw is home to Zimmer and DePuy, to name a few) and design a nine-week program led by instructors recruited from the local industry base. Some companies sponsor employees to participate in the program, Conway said.

STEM programs at community colleges exist across the country and are adapting and expanding as the industry shifts. Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Minnesota, for example, has had a medical device manufacturing program for two decades but now offers certificate programs in lean medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Cuyahoga Community College in northeast Ohio opened a Bioscience Workforce Training & Assessment Center in 2008 that provides technical training and supplemental courses in FDA regulations, standard operating procedures and good manufacturing practices.

“Ivy Tech had the training but lacked some elements of the industry part, which was interested in things like quality, FDA regulations, remanufacturing and cellular manufacturing concepts,” said OrthoWorx’s Executive Director Brad Bishop.

That kind of input and collaboration from industry leaders is key in preparing workers for the future of medical device manufacturing.

“Part of the input from industry people was the orientation of equipment to reflect how the product moves and flows on the manufacturing floor,” Conley said. “They wanted to make sure that the students could hit the ground running.”

[Photo from flickr user Manufacturers Association]

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